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Photo: City of Allentown
Photo: City of Allentown

Allentown Mayor accused in five-page letter by NAACP members of ignoring ‘incidents of racism’ within City Hall

The letter lists a number of grievances towards Mayor Matt Tuerk as well as senior staff.

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Members of the Allentown NAACP wrote in a five-page release that “incidents of racism and discrimination” against employees of color are occurring within City Hall and are claiming Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk as well as senior staff have disregarded any and all allegations of racism, and the letter lists a number of wrongs against city officials. 

“If these reports are accurate, it is time for you, Mayor, to take a stand against racism in your workplace,” the letter said.

The Mayor responded to the allegations in an email sent to all city employees Thursday morning, and wrote that the NAACP letter was sent without the knowledge of the chapter president, and “as a member of the NAACP Allentown Branch, I can tell you we don’t do business that way.”

“We do not tolerate discrimination of any form in Allentown,” he added. “If you feel that there is discrimination happening, bring it to HR. If you are uncomfortable with HR, bring it to Law. If you are uncomfortable with Law, bring it to the Mayor’s office. I will ensure that we investigate so that we can get better together.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer got in touch with Barbara Redmond, secretary of the NAACP, who acknowledged that chapter vice president Dan Bosket and president Walt Felton were aware of the letter until it was made public, but that other members were. 

Both of their names, however, along with the names of four other NAACP board members, are on the letterhead. According to the Inquirer, Redmond did not specify why the two chapter leaders were not aware when the rest of their team was. 

Bosket confirmed he did not see or know about the letter before its public release. Bosket added that NAACP board members would be meeting in the next week to go over the chapter’s “internal process” to make complaints public. 

According to Redmond, the organization has gotten in contact with 10 city employees across the specific departments who say they’ve experienced racial discrimination within City Hall. 

“We are taking these allegations very, very, very seriously,” Redmond said. “It’s just too many for us not to take the allegations seriously.” 

In the letter are several references to a previous joint meeting between NAACP leadership and Tuerk nine months ago about problems with “City Hall culture.” It was prompted by the departure of two senior Black officials in 2022.

Tuerk said at that time the culture has “traditionally been challenging” due to the previous “strained leadership,” but said he was working to improve it. 

Without specific details, he also initiated investigations into problematic workplace behavior when he took office in early 2022 and said that the mayor at the time “assured us there were no racial issues,” but that “recent events within your organization appear to show otherwise.”

The letter also alleges that nonwhite employees have been “verbally attack[ed]” and were subjected to “racial slurs and comments,” including situations in which white office managers and supervisors have verbally attacked Black and brown employees.

According to the letter, an employee was terminated for speaking up against racism, some white police officers have used racial slurs against their Black colleagues and employees of color are subjected to higher standards of dress code compared to the white employees.

Redmond said the NAACP has not independently verified every allegation they’ve laid out in the letter. She said NAACP members have seen some evidence including emails and written complaints, which could not immediately be shared publicly. 

The letter asks Tuerk within 60 days to “implement additional training and education programs to promote diversity and inclusion.”

“Please do so to avoid further actions being taken by the NAACP,” the letter reads.

“Further action,” Redmond said could include taking the allegations to the national NAACP or taking legal action and added she has since made members of the statewide NAACP chapter aware about the allegations. 

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