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Old July 1st, 2009 #2
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Worker Who Claimed Racial Threat Fired From Port Authority

Investigators Say Deborah Blocker Involved In Racial Threat At Garage

POSTED: 1:32 pm EDT June 17, 2009
UPDATED: 6:12 pm EDT June 17, 2009

PITTSBURGH -- A Port Authority woman who claimed she was the target of a racially charged threat nearly two years ago has been fired.

Channel 4 Action News Amber Nicotra spoke to 48-year-old Deborah Blocker on Wednesday.

In October of 2007, a black baby doll bearing a racial slur was found hanging in an employee-only area of the East Liberty Garage.

Blocker said she was the target of the threat, but a Port Authority investigation found that she was involved. In her termination letter the authority said Blocker had knowledge and participated in the incident.

Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie told Nicotra he "cannot comment because it's an ongoing personnel matter."

Blocker, who was on paid leave for more than a year before her June 9 firing, told Nicotra she's frustrated with the way Port Authority handled the matter and that it has ruined her reputation.

"Throughout all of this, it's damaged my character, defamation of character, slander and they just took my career away from me," Blocker said.

She said she spent 15 months living in uncertainty and that she will fight this because if it happened to her, it can happen to anybody, Nicotra reported.

"I had no communication from the Port Authority March of '08 until January of '09. Paychecks kept coming. They kept paying me but no explanation, no anything. And I can say they were investigating but we found out their investigation had been over a long time ago. And when I say we, I mean the union," Blocker said. "If you think somebody's guilty you really don't pay them a full salary for 15 months."

Tamara Clark, another employee at the garage, was fired last year in connection with the incident.

Transit union president Pat McMahon told Nicotra that the main issue here is that after more than a year of investigation by Port Authority Police and the FBI, they did not find any wrongdoing to file charges.

McMahon told Nicotra that it was appropriate for the Port Authority to investigate, but they found no sufficient cause to charge these women. He said the women's characters have been tarnished and there's a perception they did this, but the Port Authority can't prove they were involved.

The union has filed a grievance on behalf of Blocker. McMahon said that Clark is waiting the results of an arbitration ruling to find out whether she'll get her job back.

"I'm going to fight it. Iike I said, I'm not going to let it go because my character is at stake here," said Blocker. "I want my career. I want may career back."

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