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UTILITIES RACIAL BIAS CASE SETTLED

A former worker receives $125,000 and drops his claim against the county.

Jason Booker, the former county employee who leveled racial discrimination charges against co-workers and his supervisor in the Utilities Department, has settled his claims against the county for $125,000.

In a settlement reached last week, Booker, 21, agreed to dismiss a discrimination claim he filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He left his job with the county at that time.

The county's insurance company, Travelers Insurance, paid the claim, according to a memo to the County Commission from human resources director Cheryl Marsden and assistant county attorney Jon Jouben.

In April 2008, Booker stepped forward with allegations that he had faced continuing discrimination as he worked on a utilities crew. Among the incidents he recounted, he said one worker told him to "go back to Africa'' and another showed him a noose.

Another former employee, Floyd Moore, was also questioned and acknowledged that racial comments were made to him, too, while he worked for the county. While he was offered a chance to return to county employment, Moore never did.

Ultimately one of Booker's supervisors, Mike Smith, quit. Then-human resources director Barbara Dupre, was forced to resign for her poor handling of the situation and other issues. Two other utility workers were suspended and reprimanded.

All county employees were required to go through harassment awareness classes, a provision the EEOC is requiring the county to continue annually, according to the memo to the commission.

Marsden said Friday that the county and Booker had reached an amicable agreement in order to move forward.

Michael Bowling of Bell, Roper & Kohlmyer in Orlando, the county's insurance defense attorney, said this week that the settlement would be final, and the entire case file opened, once the EEOC signs off on it.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

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