City of Racine denies racist words found on computers were used by city officials

RACINE (WITI) -- A federal lawsuit claims white city officials in Racine, including Mayor John Dickert discriminated against minority business owners. That lawsuit sparked controversy last week, when lawyers claimed during the investigation, racist words were found thousands of times on city-owned computers. Now, we're learning more about those offensive words, including how they were used and who might have used them.

These words are so offensive, many of them cannot be said on television.

Mayor Dickert and other city officials who have been sued are now saying they never said those words. They say they never typed the words -- and they say they can prove it.

"Let's be clear -- what they did as I understand it, they were going to do a search for certain words," Mayor Dickert said.

270 words, to be exact -- many of them racist. They include the "n-word," ghetto, monkey, coon, oriental and wetback.

Lawyers searched for these words on computers used by 36 city of Racine workers. After searching nearly 400,000 pages of documents, some of those words showed up thousands of times.

"None of that surprises me. I told them that's what they would find," attorney Vince Bobot said.

But new documents filed Monday night, February 23rd argue just because the words were found in emails doesn't mean city workers ever used the words in a racially derogatory context.

"To date, according to our attorneys, they have found nothing relevant to those words being utlized in any of the documentation," Mayor Dickert said.

For example, the "n-word" showed up 436 times on city computers, but if you take a closer look, city officials argue, you'll see the "n-word" was mostly used in police reports or court documents. It was found just 12 times in emails, and those, lawyers for the city argue, weren't emails sent by city workers. Instead, they were spam or bulk emails -- unsolicited. Many of the other words, city officials claim, were found in contexts where they weren't offensive.

For example, the word "monkey" was used to refer to the actual animal. The word "coon" often ended up being someone's last name. The word "oriental" popped up in emails referring to the Oriential Theater or oriental salad.

But the lawyers fighting on the other side say they still think their clients were discriminated against.

"The mere fact that there are as many as there are and the numbers suggest there may be some fire to this smoke," Michael F. Hart with Kohler & Hart, S.C. said.

Mayor Dickert says there is no smoking gun. He says this is personal and it's politics.

"For 48 hours after a primary campaign, that's the first thing that comes out of the box. I just find that reprehensible," Mayor Dickert said.

The city of Racine has issued this statement to FOX6 News:

"As is clearly demonstrated in the Municipal Defendants’ Brief filed in response to the Plaintiffs’ recent motion in the Holmes et al., v. Dickert et al., federal litigation, the Plaintiffs’ allegations in such motion are categorically untrue. The City has provided thousands of pages of information in addition to many gigabytes of electronically stored information to the Plaintiffs.  There is no indication therein that any of the Municipal Defendants used any of the terms claimed by the Plaintiffs in a racially derogatory manner."

CLICK HERE to learn more about which words were used and how they were used.

CLICK HERE to view a list of all search terms used in this investigation and the number of hits.

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