S.A. convention center supervisor accused of calling employee 'N-word'

S.A. convention center supervisor accused of calling employee 'N-word'

S.A. convention center supervisor accused of calling employee 'N-word'


by Dillon Collier / KENS 5


Posted on May 14, 2014 at 8:35 AM

SAN ANTONIO -- As Mayor Julian Castro applauded the city for its progressive approach during his 'State of the City' address in February, a nasty race discrimination case between city employees was unfolding in the same building.

An employee at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center filed a federal race discrimination complaint against his supervisor last month, after co-workers said the supervisor used the 'n-word' when referring to the employee late last year.

The complaint, filed against department facilities director Robert Lassere, was lodged several months after a similar complaint was filed with the city's human resources department.

"In this day and age people are still thinking in that fashion. It's deplorable," said the whistle blower, who spoke with KENS 5 on the condition of anonymity.

He said he felt he had no choice to come forward after the city investigated Lassere but did not punish him.

Tuesday, hours before the story was scheduled to air, KENS 5 spoke with Assistant City Manager Ed Belmares.

Belmares said Lassere was suspended two days after an investigation determined he had in fact used the 'n-word'.

Four employees of the convention center corroborated details laid out in the complaints against Lassere, in separate phone conversations with the I-Team last week.

The employees claim in November 2013, Lassere said "I'm going to get some work out of this (n-word)", in reference to the whistle blower.

"I didn't ask for the fight. I'm not trying to be a hero, but I'm not afraid to fight," added the whistle blower, a military veteran who said the workplace turned toxic shortly after he complained about Lassere.

The employee said Lassere also suggested darker-skinned employees wear brighter clothing so he could see them better on convention center surveillance cameras.

In March, an employee review filled out by Lassere stated the whistle blower "did not achieve minimum expectations".

In August, two months before the incident, the employee received a favorable review that stated he was "demonstrating progress" or "achieving expectations" in every category.

Four days after receiving the poor performance review, the whistle blower was suspended two weeks.

Suspension paperwork indicates the employee did not properly supervise a clean-up effort inside exhibit hall D.

Email records obtained by the I-Team show the employee asked for "this harassment to stop" and stated these moves were "clear retaliation" for filing the internal complaint against Lassere.

The employee had previously been suspended for five days in February 2012, according to city personnel records obtained by the I-Team.

"If situations like this persist, if these allegations are true, they need to be remedied, they need to be remedied promptly," said renowned San Antonio civil rights attorney Gerry Goldstein.

"Its time that we change direction and course with respect to race relations in this country."

KENS 5 attempted to speak with Lassere Friday, but he was not at work or at home when the I-Team stopped by.

Convention center management declined to speak with the I-Team for this story, and referred all questions to the city's human resources department.

A human resources spokeswoman released the following statement late last week:

“The city of San Antonio takes claims of this nature very seriously. The facts surrounding the initial complaint resulted in swift and appropriate discipline. Because there is an ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further.”

Assistant City Manager Ed Belmares reiterated Tuesday the city does not tolerate racist language from its employees.