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Sunday, January 25, 2009

If it Walks, Sounds, or Talks like Racism, it Probably Is


In October 2006, Priority One's Board of Directors announced that they'd selected then Vice President of Operations, Charles R. Wiggington,. Sr., as successor to William E. Harris who was slated to retire on December 31, 2006. 

Many employees, including managers, and vendors were surprised that he Board had decided to select Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. as the next President because he was widely known for being brash, uncouth and immensely lazy. So why did the Board choose the President above other more qualified candidates? 

In the days following the Board's announcement Directors O. Glen Saffold, Thomas Gathers, and Janice Irving each admitted that their reason for selecting Mr. Wiggington was skin color. Two of the Directors stated, "Priority One needs a Black CEO" and "I want a Black man to head the credit union." Interesting that competency and a proven history of accomplishments were Trumped by pigmentation.

Priority One Credit Union was founded in 1926 by a group of, dare we say, "White" United States Postal carriers. Over the years, as a result of hiring more and more minorities, the United States Postal Service's ("postal service") demographics changed which in turn, changed the credit union demographical make-up. This should not be construed to imply that there are no longer White members at the credit union. Priority One's membership is extremely diverse, comprised of Asians, Blacks, Hispanics and Whites. Thus, the statement that Priority One needed a Black President is absurd, ignorant and smacks of racism. Apparently, based on Charles R. Wiggington, Sr.'s failures, he was not selected based on anything else other than his skin color. 

The reason for choosing the Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. to serve as President is also the antithesis of changes occurring in our nations. Recently, the U.S. welcomed its first Afro-American President whose mother is White. What the Board did when it chose Charles R. Wiggington., Sr. to serve as President is what is sometimes referred to as "reverse discrimination." 


Periodically, Board Director, O. Glen Saffold will talk about convicted felon, O.J. Simpson, asserting that Mr. Simpson was the victim of the "White man." He insists that all of the evidence was concocted and use to intentionally implicate Mr. Simpson in the crime which has now resulted in his conviction. 

It's interesting that Mr. Saffold, a Director, has found it appropriate at times to express his opinion about the "White man" while visiting the credit union. Maybe Mr. Saffold's bias which blinds him from accepting that Mr. Simpson was convicted because of evidence is the same bias he held in 2008, when he intentionally ignored real evidence proving Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. sexually harassed a former employee and why in spite of the evidence, voted to reinstate the President. Mr. Saffold seems to be unaware that the industry's credo is "People helping people" not "Black people helping Black people." 

Currently, Priority One's Board is comprised of all but one Latino Director. Would Charles r. Wiggington, Sr. have been reinstated had the Board been comprised of Asian, Latin, and White Directors? 


In 2007, there were two "White" Directors on Priority One's Board. They were, Rob Shipp and David L. Davidson. The two often disagreed with the course of business set by Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks. In fact, Mrs. Brooks created a clique within the Board and as a resulting in division and segregation. Through her clique, Mrs. Harris-Brooks succeeded in pushing her personal agendas and drowning out voices of the Board's White Directors. 

In time, Mr. Shipp and Mr. Davidson resigned and after leaving, described their frustration because the male, Black Directors were all subservient to Mrs. Harris-Brooks and it was quite apparent, that the Board Chair and her cronies did not want the White Directors on the Board. 

The Board Chair takes tremendous pride in the fact that she serves on the Board of Directors, actually that she possesses the title of Chairperson. Realistically, Mrs. Harris-Brooks and for that matter, the other Directors could never obtain paid employment on the Board of any bank. They lack knowledge of finances, always relying on President Wiggington to interpret financial reports. Under Mrs. Harris-Brooks' leadership, the conduct of the Board has been continually deplorable. Here are some of the acts sanctioned by the Board which have contributed to Priority One's decline:
  • In 2007, they allowed the President to escape all disciplinary actions when he refused to abide to security protocols which resulted in the mailing of ballots in envelopes on whose exterior were printed member account and social security numbers. 

  • Under this leadership, the amount of Net Income has decreased in the millions of dollars. 
  • Last year, he chose and using credit union monies, purchased a $600,000 phone system which has been immersed in technical difficulties. What's more, the credit union has incurred added expenses paying for technicians to visit the credit union several times each month to try and resolve the problems caused by the system.
  • Last year a detective from EXTTI, Inc. presented the Board and one Supervisor evidence that Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. had indeed sexually harassed a former employee. The investigator also recommended termination of the President. Mrs. Harris-Brooks led Directors, O. Glen Saffold and Thomas Gathers and Supervisory Chair, Cornelia Simmons, to vote for the President's reinstatement. 

 The Board is led by a Chair who is a complete failure in carrying out her appointed responsibilities in a competent, effective and objective manner. She has, however, succedeed in creating a comfortable niche in which she dons a title that she could never have gotten at any other business and dispenses her decisions knowing that she has the full alliance of a group of Directors who are wholly useless and who lack the understanding to help oversee the credit union's operation. 

It's important to note that Mrs. Harris-Brooks successful reinstatement have not come without a cost to employee morale and as importantly, to President Wiggington who now owes her. For "saving" him, Mrs. Harris-Brooks now visits the South Pasadena branch without an appointment and enters closed door meetings, unannounced. In fact, she is the real CEO at Priority One. Well, Mr. Wiggington, there is after all a heavy price to pay for entering into a pact with a devil." 

If racial bias isn't an issues, then one need only explain what O. Glen Saffold, Thomas Gathers and Janice Irving meant when they admitted choosing Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. to serve as President because of his skin color. Mrs. Harris-Brooks and her posy may do well to take an introspect view at their motivations. President Obama in his speech on race, said: 

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news....Or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

-Barack Obama, Speech on Race

Priority One's founders never could have imaged the disparaging lows the credit union would be dragged into by President Wiggington and the offensive Board or that this body of ineffectual officers would change the credit union's focus from members to their personal agendas which are motivated by skin color. What a way to regress!

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