Ohio Anti-Bias Worker Sent Racist, Sexist E-mails, Probe Finds

COLUMBUS, Ohio —  An Ohio state employee whose job is to prevent discrimination repeatedly sent racist and sexist e-mails from his government account, an investigation found, but kept his job.

The same man was reprimanded a year ago for sending an e-mail joking about giving jobs to women with large breasts.

Jokes about men kissing and a woman’s genitalia, as well as a racial joke and a caricature of President-elect Barack Obama, were in the latest e-mails sent by the Transportation Department worker, according to an agency report obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.

Robert Habern, 55, is the department’s equal employment opportunity contracts coordinator in the Lima office. His job is to ensure that vendors with agency contracts comply with federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

Habern, who makes $51,000 a year, was suspended without pay for 10 days in October for sending the new e-mails, which investigators said he confirmed sending. Officials say they were sent to fellow agency employees and non-state workers.

“Everything’s all taken care of and squared away,” Habern said in a brief phone interview Tuesday. “It’s over with. I don’t even want to bring it back up. It’s done and over with.”

Habern received a verbal reprimand last year for sending the e-mail about breasts and was suspended 20 days without pay in 2004 for viewing inappropriate material online, including sexually explicit Web sites.

Department officials defended keeping Habern in his position despite the repeated violations, calling October’s unpaid suspension “pretty harsh.”

“We followed the appropriate disciplinary process,” said spokesman Scott Varner. “He’s been well aware that another infraction could lead to his dismissal.”

The agency launched its latest investigation into Habern after receiving an anonymous tip about the e-mails.


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