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    Friday, April 19, 2024

    DEI director for state Public Defender service suspended for ‘misogynistic’ social media post

    The commission that oversees the state’s public defender service on Thursday suspended Daryl McGraw, its diversity, equity and inclusion director, for a misogynistic social media posting that drew sharp criticism from colleagues and others.

    Retired Supreme Court Justice Richard N. Palmer, chairman of the Public Defender Services Commission, instructed Chief Public Defender TaShun Bowden-Lewis early Thursday to suspend McGraw, with pay “until further notice, pending consideration of the matter by the Commission on or before its next regularly scheduled meeting,” according to correspondence obtained through a public records request.

    McGraw’s Facebook post was a pitch for what he called Paper Chaser Academy, something  he described as a means of “transforming hustles” into “legal success.” Paper chaser is, generally, slang for someone who chases money.

    “Former street hustlers, this is your path to financial wellness, money mastery, and legal business ownership,” the post said.

    Superimposed on a photograph of McGraw is the message: “Clubbing is for youngsters. Grown women want to travel, eat well, and (assume a particular sexual position)” #stepyourgameup  Paper Chasers Academy.”

    McGraw deleted the post on his personal Facebook account after a flurry of complaints by public defenders. By Wednesday afternoon, the 150 lawyers in the public defender union had issued a demand that he resign immediately.

    Bowden-Lewis notified commission members in an email “that our Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (Daryl McGraw) posted something on his personal Facebook page that some members of the Division found misogynistic. He was immediately spoken to and given a verbal warning.”

    Replies by the commission suggest that members are not convinced that a verbal warning is sufficient discipline. The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 5.

    The more than 400 employee Division of Public Defender Services plays an essential role in the state’s criminal justice system by defending the indigent. But MGraw’s post is an example of the sort of internal controversies that have divided the agency under the leadership of Bowden-Lewis, the first Black woman to hold the position. In addition, the division has been split by internal disagreements over policy and Bowden-Lewis has challenged commission efforts to exercise oversight.

    In October, the commission made public an unusual reprimand of Bowen-Lewis for, in its view, allowing morale to plummet, disregarding its instructions and leveling baseless allegations of racism against those who disagree with her.

    Bowden-Lewis and McGraw were hired by a prior commission. Members of that commission resigned as a group early this year after Bowden-Lewis retained an employment lawyer, threatened to sue them and  implied they were racists for disagreeing with one of her hiring decisions.

    McGraw’s hiring by the prior commission predated that of Bowden-Lewis and was against the wishes of the division’s professional staff.

    The prior commission was impressed by McGraw’s personal rehabilitation. He once had a substance abuse issue and was in and out of prison about a half dozen times over a decade. He was last released from prison in 2010 and began a career as a motivational speaker and addiction counselor.

    He started a consulting business that, in its promotional materials, was “created to help individuals and families whose lives have been disrupted by the ill effects of mass incarceration and or addiction.”

    Before taking a position with the public defender service, McGraw was director of the Office of Recovery Community Affairs for the state Department of Mental Health and  Addiction Services.

    The Facebook post isn’t the first incident that has involved McGraw in an office controversy.

    The first took place last year when senior division attorney Joseph Lopez met with McGraw and acting human resources director Paula Lohr about, among other things, employee affinity groups created by the agency and based on race, sexual orientation and other criteria, according to a written complaint by Lopez.

    When Lopez asked whether it is appropriate for a state agency to create a Black or African American Affinity Group that excludes people based on race, the complaint says McGraw, who is Black, asked Lopez, who is Hispanic, how long it took him to get his “cushy job” and that “it’s taken us longer.” Later in the conversation, Lopez asked why McGraw “seems to insert a racism component into many discussions.”

    “McGraw responded. ‘That is what white men do, call me a racist,’” according to the complaint.

    When Lopez said “I reminded Mr. McGraw that I am not white; I am Puerto Rican and that I identify as Hispanic,” the complaint claims that McGraw told Lopez he was acting “white,” wanted “to be white,” and  “will never be white” because the white man will “never love” him.

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