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MEA lineman files discrimination suit

  • Author: Rindi White
  • Updated: September 29, 2016
  • Published March 10, 2009

PALMER -- A Matanuska Electric Association lineman is suing the cooperative alleging that the utility repeatedly discriminated against him on the basis of his race.

Donte Kelly of Eagle River, a lineman with MEA for more than 18 years, filed the suit last month in federal court in Anchorage.

In a 10-page complaint, he outlines what his attorney Jim Boardman called a pattern of discrimination at the utility. Kelly, who is black, states he was passed over for job promotions because of his race and that utility managers eliminated positions he applied for rather than promote him. He also states that a supervisor once told him never to bid for a supervisor position.

MEA assistant manager Tuckerman Babcock, who directs the human resources department at the utility, and general manager Wayne Carmony are specifically named in the suit. Babcock said the cooperative investigated the complaints Kelly made to the utility and took action in cases where it was warranted.

Kelly's suit also recalls numerous instances of name-calling and two more blatant racial acts -- one in which a noose was hung near his desk on Martin Luther King Jr. Day by a man who was later promoted as his supervisor and a second in which someone placed a black mailbox with the word "Napville" stenciled on one side above his locker.

Babcock said Kelly has previously complained to managers about racist MEA line incidents. He said MEA addressed the issues as they came up.

"In some cases, there were legitimate issues that employees have been disciplined over with regard to Mr. Kelly. In others, his complaints were unsubstantiated. In others, what he said and what happened were sometimes different," Babcock said. In the case of the temporary sub-foreman position Kelly applied for three years ago, Babcock said it went unfilled. But Kelly "has been sub-foreman for years and has been routinely upgraded to foreman," Babcock said.

Boardman said Kelly's case shows a history of discriminatory acts happening over the course of several years, actions that were sometimes admitted by MEA managers to be wrong.

Boardman said the federal case was filed after Kelly received a "right to sue" letter from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Find Daily News reporter Rindi White online at or call 352-6709.


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