The owner of a Howard County country club will issue an apology today for racial epithets used by his club manager and will announce that the manager will be fired, the club's attorney said yesterday.
Nicholas Mangione, owner of the Turf Valley Country Club, will return to Maryland from Florida to respond to disclosures that manager Frederick B. Grimmell had complained about "niggers" questioning the club's hiring practices.
"We want to do what is right," club attorney Richard DiPasquale said yesterday from his Florida home. He is acting as spokesman for Mangione and the club. "We don't need any problems."
On Wednesday, the Howard County branch of the NAACP voted unanimously to move its Freedom Fund, an annual fund-raiser, to another banquet hall because of Grimmell's remarks.
The comments came in response to NAACP member Sherman Howell's inquiry about the club's hiring practices and were recorded Feb. 23 on Howell's telephone answering machine after Grimmell apparently thought he had hung up the phone.
Yesterday, the president of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, whose 625-member roster includes The Rouse Co., W.R. Grace and Bendix Corp., said it was considering moving several of its meetings from the membership resort off Rte. 40 near Ellicott City.
Chamber President Julie Koerth said yesterday the business group wanted Mangione to issue an apology at the "bare minimum" and take disciplinary action against Grimmell.
In addition, the county's Human Rights Commission has received a discrimination complaint filed by Howell. C. Vernon Gray, the only black on the County Council and chairman of the county's liquor board, said he will investigate the club's liquor license.
At a news conference Wednesday, the Rev. John Wright, president of the Maryland NAACP, asked for an apology and the firing of Grimmell, 39. Wright also asked for an investigation into hiring practices at the club, which has 825 members.
"Even if Mangione apologizes and fires the manager, he's not off the hook," Wright said yesterday. "We're going to look at blacks in top management. We're going to give him a timetable."
On the tape, Grimmell is heard saying, "This nigger, I am going to put him against the wall," followed by the words, "Sherman Nigger" and "Yo nigger." Later on the tape, an unidentified third voice says, "We don't like niggers" and "I'm discriminated against because all the niggers get the jobs."
Grimmell acknowledged making the statements when asked by a police officer who investigated the incident, according to a police report obtained yesterday by The Washington Post.
According to the police report, Grimmell said he was "upset" because Howell had given his secretary "a hard time" when he called the club. Grimmell said he and his secretary, Nancy Krug, were discussing the matter shortly before he returned Howell's call. The police report states that Grimmell said he "lost his temper, which precipitated the conversation on the recorder."
According to the police report, Grimmell said his statement about "nailing" Howell to the wall was "meant as a figure of speech" and that Turf Valley could withstand a probe of its hiring practices because it had nothing to hide.
Koerth said yesterday the chamber is looking for alternative places to hold a Educator Recognition luncheon March 17 and a St. Patrick's gala the following day. The two events are expected to draw about 400 people, she said. The chamber also is considering moving its regularly scheduled monthly meetings, which attract about 200 members, from Turf Valley, she said.
Yesterday, DiPasquale disputed claims that the club has no black employees and that it discriminates in its hiring practices.
"We'll hire them if they come in for the job," DiPasquale said. "We need help because we're a big business. It's a question of filling jobs."
DiPasquale yesterday refused to disclose the number of blacks employed at the club, and said Turf Valley has trouble recruiting workers because of the lack of bus transportation in the county. He said the club will turn over its hiring records to the county's Human Rights Office for review.
"They will determine who is black, white, Jewish or Italian," DiPasquale said. "The statistics will show what we've done."
Meanwhile, black and white club members expressed anger yesterday at Grimmell's statements.
Howard County State's Attorney William R. Hymes, a 22-year member of the club, said he was "distressed" by the club manager's comments. "It's totally out of context with what everyone does out there."
Former club member Isaiah Woodward, a retired history professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore, who is black, said he invited several of his black friends to the club while he was a member.
"There wasn't any segregation out there back then," said Woodward, who belonged to the club for about nine years before canceling his membership when he moved to Towson.