About two dozen black employes of the D.C. Superior Court expressed their grievances at a D.C. Council hearing last night, complaining about slow promotions, low pay and discrimination.
"The court has never seen fit to have affirmative action," said Kirby Thompson, who has been a probation officer at the court for 19 years. "I have heard that I will never be promoted in the court system."
Council member Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8), chairman of the Council Judiciary Committee, urged court officials to promote more blacks and reminded them that her committee "controls the budget of the courts." She said she scheduled the hearing after receiving complaints from court employes.
In a statement to Rolark's committee at a hearing last week, Larry P. Polansky, the court's executive officer, strongly defended its hiring practices. He said the court does its hiring "regardless of race, color, religion, age, sex, or physical handicap."
Polansky said the courts have an "affirmative recruitment" program to increase the number of minority employes, but added, "We do not have quotas . . . . We believe in upward mobility for everyone."
According to court statistics, 72 percent of the 1,200 employes of the Superior Court and D.C. Court of Appeals are black, 57 percent are women, and 50 percent are D.C. residents.
Of the 373 professional-level employes earning from $33,730 to $69,600 a year, 54 percent are black, Polansky said. In the last year, blacks were selected for 178, or 87 percent, of the courts' 204 promotions or new positions, he said.
About 300 persons, mostly court employes, attended the hearing at the council chambers. Many applauded as witnesses made their complaints.
Several witnesses said they had more education than whites who were promoted above them to administrative jobs. "Cronyism along with discrimination is alive and well in the court system," said Anthony Shepherd, a recording technician.
"I'm sure I know what's going on," Rolark said.
Waverly Yates, the president of Bonabond, an organization to which accused persons are released on bail, said that "96 percent of the clients in D.C. Superior Court are black. It is our position that employment in the court should reflect that clientele."
Rolark said the court "should reflect more the population of the District of Columbia and be more sensitive to the needs of the District of Columbia." She said it was inequitable that many employes of the U.S. District Court "earn more for less work" than city court employes.