Grimes County District Clerk Gay Wells is playing the race card -- the white race card -- in a lawsuit against Prairie View A&M, saying she was fired for running for public office in 2006.
Minorities at the school had run as Democrats and not been fired, she says; she's white, ran successfully as a Republican for the district clerk job and got axed.
"I don't want to make it (the issue) black and white, and I don't want to make it Democrat/Republican -- people should just do the right thing," said Wells.
Wells, 63, was fired from her administrative assistant position at historically black Prairie View A&M University on the basis of her candidacy for a partisan office. At the time of the termination, the relevant policy of the Texas A&M System (of which Prairie View is a part) read: "TAMUS employees may run for election and serve as members of the governing bodies of school districts, cities, town, or other local government districts..."
The stipulations are not clearly outlined in the PVAMU policies, said Wells. Five other employees ran for partisan, full-time, paid positions while employed by PVAMU -- all individuals who are either African-American or Mexican-American and ran Democrat -- and to the best of her knowledge have not been subject to any penalties.
"It's a lack of clarity in the policy and when they imposed the policy on me, and I happen to be white, over 55, a Republican, and none of those other people were, then what did it become?" Wells said. "I didn't make it that."
After having run for office as a Republican in 2002 without problems, Wells ran Republican for a second time in 2006, and on February 28 of that same year, she received a letter from the vice president of student affairs and institutional relations at PVAMU serving a notice of intent to terminate employment.
"They said it has to be a non-partisan office," Wells said. "Well, why didn't they put that in the rule: 'You cannot run for any office that is a partisan office'?...I'm old-school, I have good work ethics, I try to do the right thing. I had all good reviews...I was squeaky-clean, the best employee you've ever seen."
She said she had been unemployable between the firing and starting the job she'd been elected to because she would have been a short-timer.
Three years after being filed as a civil action case in Waller County, it was filed with the federal district court on February 11, 2009.
Although not mentioned in their lawsuit complaint, Gay and one of her white colleagues were told by African-American employees of Prairie View that "[they] have jobs that belong to black people," her attorney, Ty Clevenger, told Hair Balls.
"The racial element was a larger element," said Clevenger. "I honestly don't know how much party had to do with it."
Prairie View spokesperson Sheleah D. Hughes said the school would not comment on pending litigation.
"If you have a rule, then it should be implemented against everybody the same and equal." Wells said. "No matter what affiliation of party you are, or no matter what color you are, a rule is a rule."
-- Melanie Pang
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