A Pennsylvania city’s treasurer-elect has finally been cleared to take office after she claims local leaders conspired to ice her out — efforts she believes were motivated by race.
Antoinette Hodge was set to be sworn in Monday afternoon, making history as Uniontown’s first African-American city treasurer, Pittsburgh station WTAE reported. Her swearing in comes just days after Hodge slapped the city with a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination.
In a complaint filed last week, Hodge accuses City Council member Martin Gatti and Gatti’s sister-in-law, City Clerk Kim Marshall, of blocking her from securing a bond required for her to take office. She also claims Gatti made racist remarks and brought up “incriminating evidence” about her to the bonding firm.
“This councilman told the bonding people ‘this colored girl’ shouldn’t sit as the treasurer for the city of Uniontown,” Joel Sansone, Hodge’s lawyer, said. “To have her kept out because she’s black is a throwback to the days of slavery, which we’re just not going to accept.”
Hodge, who had been set to be sworn in on Jan. 6, also sought an injunction to force the suburban Pittsburgh city to seat her as treasurer before it ultimately agreed to let her take office, WTAE reported. She was approved for the $150,000 surety bond on Jan. 7, clearing the way for her to finally take office. However, that didn’t stop her from moving forward with her suit.
Hodge is now seeking a jury trial after she says she was discriminated and retaliated against due to her race, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She is also accusing Uniontown of violating her First and 14th Amendment rights.
“This case is about racism and the actions of persons who believe racism is the way to go,” Sansone told reporters at a recent news conference. “I’m not sure how deep this conspiracy goes.”
Gatti has denied making any racist remarks, saying he was only following up on Hodge’s bond status and has never “made a political or professional decision based on race.” According to the Post-Gazette, the BondExchange agency has also denied that Gatti used the word “colored” in conversation one of its employees. Moreover, it stated the councilman wouldn’t have the authority to cancel her bond, like Hodge claimed.
In her suit, the treasurer-to-be alleges a second BondExchange employee asked to know her race, and when she told him she’s African-American, the employee responded “that sums it up.”
Counsel for the bonding agency has denied claims that its employees said or heard any racist remarks, arguing Hodge’s assertions “do not align with the recollection of our employees” mentioned in the suit.
The treasurer-elect has since submitted all the documents needed of her to take office and is scheduled to be sworn in at 5 p.m. Monday.
“I want to do what Uniontown city residents elected me to do,” she said. “I’m ready to take the oath.”
Watch more in the video below.