Update: The Basin Transit Service Board of Directors met Wednesday to address the allegations.
Klamath Falls, Ore. – The assistand manager of Basin Transit Service in Klamath Falls is accused of using racist language against an employee.
BTS Lead Mechanic James Barnes says Paula Quinn called him the ‘N’ word last December.
“We were in counting vaults, and she says, ‘What’s up, my n_____r?” Barnes stated. “And I went, whoa – I couldn’t believe what I heard.”
BTS Administrative Secretary Candice Shepherd claims she witnessed the incident. “And my response was something like, ‘How does that work?’ or, ‘We do that now?’ – because I was shocked.”
NBC5 News spoke with Paula Quinn by phone, she denies the allegations.
“This is a serious thing.” Responded Barnes. “So I can see where she probably would deny it.”
Basin Transit Service General Manager Mike Stinson says the incident triggered a 2 month investigation.
It concluded that the slur was used.
“We had a grievance.” Confirmed Stinson. “Filed by an employee that stated a manager had used inappropriate and racial comments when addressing the employee.”
Stinson adds several steps are being taken. “First, we’re going to apologize to the employee. We have some anti-bias training we will be implementing.”
“The damage is already done.” Barnes notes. “So I don’t think that an apology is going to make any difference in my opinion.”
Barnes says he now plans to retire from BTS in October. “I don’t want to be employed there is she’s going to be there in charge.”
“Removal is what I would suggest.” Agrees Shepherd. “I don’t think they’ll do that, but that’s what I think should happen.”
Stinson says the personnel issue isn’t fully resolved. “If that includes firing, we haven’t made that determination yet.”
The Basin Transit Board of Directors will host a public meeting Wednesday afternoon at 4:15 in their office on Adams Street.
They plan to read a public letter of apology to Barnes.
Barnes says he does not plan to attend.
KOTI-TV NBC2 reporter Lyle Ahrens moved from Nebraska to Klamath Falls in the late 1970’s. He instantly fell in love with the mountains, the trees and the rivers, and never once regretted the move.Lyle’s job history is quite colorful.
He’s managed a pizza parlor; he’s been a bartender, and a “kiwifruit grader” at an organic orchard in New Zealand. A Klamath Falls radio station hired Lyle in the mid 90’s as a news writer and commercial producer. In 2004, Lyle joined the KOTI/KOBI news operation.Lyle notes with pride that he has a big responsibility presenting the Klamath Basin to a wide and varied audience.
“The on-going water crisis has underscored the fact that the people and the issues in the Klamath Basin are every bit as diverse as the terrain. Winning and keeping the trust of the viewers, as well as the newsmakers, is something I strive for with each story”.
When he’s not busy reporting the news, Lyle enjoys astronomy, playing guitar, fixing old radios and listening to anything by Sheryl Crow.