Authorities are investigating an incident in which a black Atlantic County Utilities Authority employee reported finding a noose hanging in the work truck assigned to him.
The investigation follows Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson’s demand that ACUA President Rick Dovey look into the matter after ACUA employee Scott Henry complained to county freeholders of the June 3 incident, and told them police had not been notified.
Levinson and Atlantic County Freeholder Ernest Coursey called the lack of investigation unacceptable.
“Had this occurred in the county the police would have been called immediately on that day when it happened. It’s disappointing no one had the idea to call the police,” said Levinson Thursday.
“With everything happening in this country today, especially the shootings in South Carolina last night, this kind of stuff needs to be taken seriously,” Levinson said.
Henry, a 10-year ACUA employee, first told Coursey about the noose then attended the freeholder meeting on Coursey’s advice.
Henry brought photos of the noose to the meeting to show officials his discovery.
That led Levinson to call Dovey Thursday morning, demanding the authorities be called.
The ACUA contacted the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and Egg Harbor Township Police Department.
Dovey said Egg Harbor Township Police came to the ACUA facility, interviewed employees and took the noose to examine it. Police told Dovey they would complete a report about the incident and the noose.
Dovey said the police were not called June 3, because it wasn’t a police matter and was handled in-house by ACUA. Dovey added it could not be proven that it was Henry who was targeted with the noose, but called the incident reprehensible.
“We understand the sensitivity that goes along with this. Whoever did it was wrong and we have absolutely no tolerance for this kind of behavior,” said Dovey.
He said in the past, there have been employees who have participated in race-related harassment of fellow ACUA employees and they were fired.
Henry said he is in fear of going to work now.
Henry said he found the six-foot-long noose on June 3 after reporting to the truck he’d been assigned as part of his trash and recycling duties that day.
It was wrapped around one of the work seats. Henry said he and his partner Angel Rodriguez had been assigned the Packer 25 truck that day.
“That noose was around the seat and the circle and knots were hanging off the chair. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I had heard about stuff like this, but I never had this happen to me,” said Henry.
He said he grabbed his cell phone and snapped a picture of the noose around the seat.
Henry said he sent the photograph to his union representative Local 68 and asked what his rights were. He was told to go to his immediate supervisor.
His supervisor came to the truck to take pictures of the noose and the cab of the truck, Henry said.
“And he was very helpful. He really apologized that I had to see something like that,” Henry said.
Henry said in the two weeks since the noose was found inside the truck he has experienced harassment and a hostile work environment at the ACUA. He had to visit his doctor where he was prescribed medication for anxiety. He said he was told to keep quiet about the incident so whoever did it would not get any attention for what was done.
““There are a lot of jokes going on around me and smart racial things being said to me I don’t like being the laughing stock of the MUA because a noose was put in my truck,” he said.
He said when he goes to work he feels his heart is beating out of control.
Dovey said he has spoken to Henry and advised him if he is harassed or threatened at work, he should immediately come to his superiors and report it. Henry told Dovey he has been teased and harassed since the noose was found but declined to identify anyone he’s accused.