North Carolina Town Buried Thousands of Documents to Hide Discriminatory Practices: Lawsuit

Officials in a North Carolina town have filed a lawsuit alleging that thousands of public documents were buried to hide discriminatory practices.

According to WRAL-TV in North Carolina, officials in the town of Lucama have recently recovered public documents dating back to 1990, hidden in a field outside the town.

Patricia Uzzell, commissioner for the town, and several other officials have filed a lawsuit against the town alleging the documents were buried to hide discriminatory practices such as how non-white residents were treated in the workplace.

"This should have never happened. There are buried documents here. The town documents. And that shouldn't be," Uzzell told WRAL-TV. "The townspeople have a right to know that their paperwork, some of the things that they trusted in our hands, is under this ground behind me."

The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of North Carolina, states that Uzzell and three other residents of the town "were subjected to discriminatory and unconstitutional treatment by the Town of Lucama because of their race or color and/or or their opposition to race and color and other impermissible kinds of discrimination and unconstitutional treatment."

"Defendants have sued their power, authority, and influence to either take or condone the taking of arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory, and unconstitutional actions based on race, ethnicity, and other protected categories including but not limited to speech and other rights protected by other amendments," the lawsuit said. "These actions include but are not limited to the destruction of public records."

Uzzell told WRAL-TV some of the documents found buried include bank records and payroll stubs with social security numbers on them.

According to WRAL-TV, in North Carolina, cities and counties were permitted to bury public documents up until 2014. The documents were also required to be destroyed if they contained any sensitive information, but Uzzell told the local TV station some of the documents appear to be buried as recent as 2019.

"We're your elected officials. What do we have to hide from you?" Uzzell said, according to WRAL-TV. "And I think it's crucial that things be known, the people have a right to know what's going on in their town."

The lawsuit also alleges town Commissioner David Johnson used racial slurs to refer to many Black town employees.

"Upon information and belief, multiple town employees have heard Defendant David Johnson use racial epithets towards the Town's African-American town employees," the lawsuit said.

Uzzell first brought up the issue of Johnson using racial slurs in 2019 when she told WRAL that he used the N-word to refer to African-American town employees "numerous times."

"If we have a commissioner and he feels this way about the people, to me, you have no place on the board," Uzzell told WRAL-TV in 2019.

Newsweek reached out to the attorney representing Uzzell and other town employees that filed the suit for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

North Carolina
A town in North Carolina is accused of burying public documents to hide discriminatory practices. Above, protesters gather in front of the old Durham County Courthouse where days earlier a confederate statue was toppled by demonstrators, in Durham, North Carolina, on August 18, 2017. AFP Contributor/Getty