Agency head sued for racial bias

August 20, 1998

From staff and AP reports

The head of the Washington County Mental Health Authority is being sued for racial and sexual discrimination at his last job in Virginia, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

A former employee of the Prince William County Community Services Board has filed a $1 million civil suit against the agency and its former executive director Phillip E. Dukes, alleging discrimination, unequal pay and negligence.

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Sherry L. Mooring, who is black, was hired in August 1997 by the agency, which provides mental health and substance abuse counseling. She was fired in December.


The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, alleges Mooring was fired because she complained of bias against her.

"Defendants followed a policy and practice of discrimination in employment against African-American women and plaintiff in particular," the lawsuit says. "Plaintiff endured repeated racial insults and slurs by co-workers and staff."

Dukes, who also is black, was fired from the Prince William County Community Services Board in February following a series of financial and management problems.

Dukes called Mooring's lawsuit frivolous.

"I'm a black person. She's a black person. I would not discriminate against anyone, but certainly that makes no sense," Dukes said Wednesday.

Dukes said Mooring never complained to him about being discriminated against.

Because Mooring had only worked there four months, the county didn't need a reason to let her go, Dukes said.

Dukes, 51, became executive director of the Washington County Mental Health Authority on March 25.

In the $75,000-a-year post, Dukes oversees about 30 mental health agencies and a budget of $9 million in state and federal grants.

The Rev. Andrew Cooney, chairman of the mental health authority board, could not be reached for comment.

Last month, Cooney said the board had confidence in Dukes.

In April 1994, Dukes was fired as director of the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Community Mental Health Board amid complaints about management.

Dukes alleged the board of trustees was racially biased.

A civil rights complaint is pending, he said.

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