TP&W's Smith: No Racism Here
TP&W Executive Director to bring up recent article in town hall meeting
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Executive Director Carter Smith has issued an indirect response to charges of institutional racism made by some TP&W staff in Patricia Ruland's Aug. 10 Chronicle story, "Parks, Wildlife, and Racism." In an Aug. 17 memo issued to agency staff (from "[Smith executive assistant] Michelle Klaus on behalf of Carter Smith,") Smith reminds his staff of an agency "Town Hall meeting" scheduled for today (Thursday, Aug. 23, apparently for agency staff only). The meeting will have two items on the agenda: 1) the agency's initial appropriations request to the Legislative Budget Board, by which staff should not "get unnecessarily preoccupied at this very formative stage of the budget process"; and 2) "our response to the recent article involving TPWD in the Austin Chronicle, a free Austin weekly distributed throughout the city."
Smith describes the Chronicle story as "an incendiary one, with allegations of racism inside parts of the agency." (He doesn't mention that he and other agency representatives responded to the specific charges in the body of the story.) He goes on: "You may be assured that we take any allegations of racism, real or perceived, very seriously."
"Our policy on this matter is a simple and unambiguous one," Smith continues. "We have zero tolerance for any discrimination against anyone because of their race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, or disability. Reporting procedures for handling complaints of this nature are found within our policies and procedures. We will review these in our Town Hall meeting to ensure there is no confusion about how to report such a complaint if it occurs."
Smith does not address any of the specific allegations in the story, most especially the broader complaints about the agency's longtime failure to recruit or hire African-American wardens in significant numbers. He does say that "a number of the specific allegations ... have already been investigated thoroughly by the agency and the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] in the past. Based on what I have seen, there is no reason to believe that a culture of racism currently exists inside the agency."
Read the full memo here.