News Release

EPA Office of Civil Rights “Dysfunctional”


Politico reported Monday: “A whistleblower group is calling on the EPA to fire its civil rights director in response to allegedly sexist and racist remarks he’s made involving ‘pink elephants’ and Rosa Parks.

“The National Whistleblowers Center sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Wednesday demanding the immediate dismissal of Rafael DeLeon, director of the agency’s Office of Civil Rights. …

“EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said Thursday that the agency will look into the allegations,and that Jackson is ‘deeply committed to issues of environmental justice, civil rights and a healthy workplace for all.'”

MARSHA COLEMAN-ADEBAYO, nofearcoalition at
Coleman-Adebayo was one of the subjects of the disparaging remarks. She has been described by Time Magazine as “a former EPA employee whose complaints of a ‘racially toxic’ environment there led to the signing of the Notification and Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2001.” She is currently working on a book No Fear: A Whistleblower’s Triumph Over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA.

Renner is legal director of the National Whistleblowers Center. He said today: “Dr. Coleman-Adebayo is an environmental whistleblower who raised concerns about the dangers of vanadium mining in South Africa. When her concerns focused on the role of U.S. companies in apartheid South Africa she became the victim of a hostile work environment. Ms. [Susan] Morris [another woman apparently disparaged by Mr. DeLeon] raised concerns about EPA’s compliance with the Civil Rights Act and then suffered a removal from her supervisory position.”

The National Whistleblowers Center recently wrote to EPA head Jackson: “The Office of Civil Rights under your administration has failed. As its name suggests, OCR should be at the forefront of eliminating discrimination and advancing civil rights and liberties within the Agency. Instead of taking positive actions to correct the endemic problems, your newly appointed director, Rafael DeLeon, has exemplified a continuation of the old mode of denying that any problems exist and defending management. The recent Deloitte Consultant Report on the civil rights program described OCR as essentially dysfunctional. Yet, the very man placed in the office to ‘fix it,’ is someone that numerous women have filed complaints against. During a recent MSPB hearing, under oath, Mr. DeLeon stated that he could not ‘remember’ how many complaints had been filed against him. …

“It has come to our attention that during a recent Agency-wide conference call, Mr. DeLeon bragged about actions taken against two senior female civil rights leaders, calling them ‘pink elephants.’ As you are no doubt aware, the term ‘pink elephant’ was popularized during the last presidential election. The pink elephant refers … disrespectfully to women who are characterized as pitbulls with lipstick.”

The NWC also stated: “A recent Deloitte Consultant report found that the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights was essentially dysfunctional. … Mr. DeLeon fired former EPA employee and NWC Board of Director’s Member Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo.”

The Deloitte Consultant report: “Evaluation of the EPA Office of Civil Rights” PDF

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167