Page 2 of 3

In the spring of 1991, five such jobs opened up, but they were filled by white women. Harry McFate, the chief of the Office of Appeals, told Mitchell-Raibon that she didn't qualify because she had no legal-secretary certificate, she says. (McFate, who says he has since been dismissed from DES, wouldn't comment.) Mitchell-Raibon says three of the five white women did not have legal-secretary certificates, either.

Mitchell-Raibon filed an internal complaint at DES, alleging she was not promoted because of her race and sex. The complaint was found to be without merit. "She was not qualified," DES' Sylvester Mabry says.

That's not what Peter Lansdowne, Mitchell-Raibon's boss, said after she was turned down for the job. He wrote a letter to the DES personnel department strongly recommending that Mitchell-Raibon be reconsidered. "She has been performing the duties of a legal secretary for well over a year," wrote Lansdowne, who is white. "The duties which Ms. Mitchell currently performs are identical to those specified for the legal secretary position," he wrote.

Mitchell-Raibon's office supervisor Gabe Menafee, a white woman, also tried to intercede. "Gloria is more than qualified for this position," she wrote in a letter of recommendation. "She would make an excellent legal secretary. She is patient, understanding, caring, attentive and always eager to learn more. Her work habits show she cares by creating a quality product. Gloria shows good leadership qualities in her interaction with people. She is a self-motivator and strives to get the job done. I can always rely on Gloria to do the job and do it well. Please consider my recommendation to place her on the certified list [of finalists] for the position of legal secretary."

Mitchell-Raibon requested that the DES personnel department check into her application to see what went wrong. In November 1991, James Whorl, the director of the personnel department, told Mitchell-Raibon in a letter that she simply didn't qualify for the job.

He also noted that the state Department of Administration, not DES, determines with a complicated rating system who makes the list of finalists for all state jobs. The list of finalists, called the Ôcert list," is then bounced back to DES, which interviews each finalist and chooses the best person for the job.

²It sounds like an equitable system, but it doesn't always work. Bette Richards, the lawyer who is advising Mitchell-Raibon, says she suspects that someone in DES personnel called the Department of Administration with the names of people it wanted on the "cert list." "That's how it's done around here," says Richards. "It just takes a phone call."

DIANE BROOKS remembered when gubernatorial candidate Fife Symington spoke out against racism during a speech to a group of black businesspeople at JJ's restaurant in central Phoenix. She decided to remind him of it in an August 1991 letter. "You spoke of the terrible racial problems in Arizona," Brooks wrote the governor. "Your facial expression led me to believe that you really wanted to make a difference for the black men and women of Arizona. I must now ask, Does this not include employment within state government?" A month later, Normando de Halle, the director of the Governor's Office of Affirmative Action, wrote Brooks that the governor could not respond to her letter. He said it would be inappropriate for Symington, as chief of state, to meet with the women who had pending grievances against the state.

"WASTE OF TIME!" the women scribbled on de Halle's letter. And then they placed the letter in their voluminous files.

"You're passing the buck," the women wrote in a second letter.
A few days later, de Halle met with the women. But the meeting was sour and fruitless. The women say they were angry that their advocate attorney Bette Richards was asked to leave the room before the meeting started. According to state law, a person who files a grievance is allowed to have a representative at meetings with state officials.

"They didn't want the women to have a competent representative," says Bette Richards. She suspects that de Halle "wouldn't want me to testify" about what went on at the meeting.

The women have refused to meet with the governor's representatives again. But all four women say the issue is larger than their individual grievances.

Normando de Halle has since left the Governor's Office, but deputy director Robert Williams says he is not aware "of any grave problem at DES." The Governor's Office, he says, did what it could to help the women. "Normando wanted to deal with this individually," he says. "The group seemed affronted by this."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Terry Greene