Former Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing no doubt put Guilford County in his mental rear-view mirror when he took a job as the city manager of Fort Myers, Florida, earlier this year.
However, some in that city and in the surrounding Lee County are accusing Lawing of racially biased actions during his eight years managing Guilford County government.
According to a report from FOX4 News in Cape Coral, Florida, Lee County NAACP President James Muwakkil publicly asked city leaders: “How did y’all choose a racist to be our city manager?”
The Lee County NCAAP president told the news outlet that Lawing isn’t fit for the job after the NAACP learned that Lawing was named in several race-based lawsuits while working for Guilford County.
Other news outlets in the Fort Myer’s area have also covered the controversy that’s largely based on an old lawsuit that involved an African-American Information Technology worker in Guilford County government who claimed to have been unfairly terminated by the county.
What’s interesting is that the case – which dragged on for years – never even caused a blip on the news radar in Guilford County. However, after the fact – and after a federal judge has cleared Lawing – the old case is making headlines 795 miles to the south.
Many city leaders and others in Florida jumped to Lawing’s defense and spoke about what a fair and decent man Lawing is. One stated that, if there were any indication of racism in Lawing’s past, he wouldn’t have been hired for the job.
Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson said he doesn’t believe the allegation Lawing is racist. He said that, just by virtue of being county manager, Lawing was no doubt named on all sorts of lawsuits.
“What some people may not know is since being elected in November, I have been sued, not for anything I did individually – just by virtue that I hold this position,” Anderson told a local news outlet.
Guilford County Commissioner Justin Conrad, who worked with Lawing for seven years before Lawing resigned in December of 2020, said he’d never seen Lawing exhibit a racial bias. Conrad said Lawing was a good, fair and just manager.
Conrad also pointed out that Lawing hired African Americans for county director jobs.
Lawing hired an African American to be his deputy manager as well.
The Rhino Times also observed Lawing very closely for eight years and never saw any indication of racism.
While some Guilford County commissioners have made that accusation of Lawing from time to time over the years, it usually came in the context of the county not using enough minority-owned firms for major construction projects – and that’s been a nut that Guilford County hasn’t been able to crack under any manager this century.
The serious-minded Lawing was seen by many in Guilford County as one of the most “by the book” managers the county has ever had.
In July, US District Judge William Osteen Jr. dismissed the suit that was filed by the former Guilford County employee who was fired from the IT job in 2017.
Osteen’s decision stated there was not a single fact in the case to indicate Lawing terminated the employee on the basis of race. Lawing was listed on the lawsuit since he was the manager of Guilford County at the time – though the decision for termination appears to have come up the command chain after the employee read emails of top county officials without authorization.
In 2013, when Lawing was hired as Guilford County’s manager, Commissioner Carolyn Coleman expressed concerns that, while Lawing was manager of Brunswick County, a landfill was put near a predominantly black neighborhood.
Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, who strongly encouraged Lawing to resign just before Christmas last year, said this week that he didn’t feel Lawing put forth the effort to engage the local black community and black vendors as he should have during his eight years with the county.