DADE CITY — A Pasco County Fair employee is being dismissed over perceptions she may not have complied with a four-year-old U.S. Department of Justice consent decree aimed at preventing discrimination on fair property, an attorney for the fair board said Wednesday.
Virginia McKendree, the fair’s office manager, will end her employment with the fair the middle of this month, said attorney Hutch Brock, who called McKendree a dedicated and respected employee.
“It is with a tinge of sadness this has to happen this way,” Brock said.
McKendree declined comment, referring questions to the fair board.
McKendree was the subject of a federal lawsuit filed against the fair four years ago by Hispanic residents who claimed they were discriminated against when they tried to rent the Dan Cannon Auditorium on the fairgrounds in Dade City. They alleged they were charged more for deposits than others who rented the facility.
Although the fair board did not admit to the allegations, it did agree through a consent decree with the Department of Justice to take several steps aimed at curbing discrimination, including sensitivity training for employees and board members, and posting signs on fair property in both English and Spanish that declared the fair did not discriminate.
In addition, “testers” periodically called or visited the fair offices, posing as potential customers. Reports from some of those visits indicated McKendree asked questions or made statements that some people might have perceived as discriminatory, Brock said. He said there was no indication of anything intentional on McKendree’s part, but the fair board decided because of how things could be construed it would be best to part ways.
“If there is a recurring problem they have to take steps, as regrettable as it may be, they have to take steps to correct the problem,” Brock said.