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Architect of Capitol addresses discrimination claims

Architect of the Capitol says he has taken steps to address harassment and discrimination at the agency

J. Brett Blanton addressed sexual and racial discrimination lawsuits against the agency.
J. Brett Blanton addressed sexual and racial discrimination lawsuits against the agency. (CQ Roll Call)

Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton told an appropriations panel he is committed to quelling misconduct, while the agency is being sued for racial and sexual discrimination.

Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Ryan on Wednesday asked Blanton what he is doing to combat such behavior.

“First of all, I want to reaffirm my commitment to having no tolerance for racism, discrimination or sexual harassment,” Blanton said.

[Two top Architect of the Capitol employees have left the agency after investigation]

Blanton’s tenure at the Architect of the Capitol began in January after the lawsuits Ryan mentioned were filed.

One lawsuit, filed in November 2019, involves Anthony Green, a black maintenance mechanic at the Architect of the Capitol. Green alleges in court documents he found a noose hanging from equipment he was assigned to inspect and was called the N-word by white colleagues.

A separate sexual discrimination lawsuit accuses AOC employee Walter Skinner of sexually harassing and denigrating a subordinate, Donna Blake, over the course of years. The suit says Skinner told Blake if she wanted a promotion she should wear a short skirt and “go bend over” in the superintendent’s office. That lawsuit was also filed in November 2019.

“This has happened under several different architects, and we don’t see any steps that the new architect has taken to put an end to it,” Les Alderman, the attorney for both plaintiffs, said in a February statement.

Ryan, an Ohio Democrat, alluded to Alderman’s comments, and Blanton called that assessment false.

“I don’t know who said that we haven’t put any changes in or we’re not making any changes, but that is fiction,” Blanton said.

Blanton said he sent a policy memorandum to the agency, making his zero-tolerance policy clear and setting expectations that all staff will be held to the same standard.

He further explained that the directive was a written policy statement addressing various forms of discrimination, including sexual harassment and other forms of harassment. Blanton said the policy provides employees with avenues to report a complaint if they feel discriminated against, and to protect them from reprisal.

When asked whether Skinner, the AOC employee who allegedly sexually harassed Blake, still works at his agency, Blanton said he didn’t know.

“The case is being run by DOJ right now,” he said. “So my involvement is absolutely hands off. In fact, when we have had discussions about it, DOJ wants to handle all communications and all discussions with it.”

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