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Letter alleges racism, discrimination is rife within Allentown City Hall; mayor’s office questions its origin

Allentown City Hall
Jason Addy
A letter distributed Wednesday lodged many allegations of racism and discrimination against Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk and his administration.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk appears to be under fire from the local branch of the NAACP, which recently sent out a letter that said the organization is “extremely disturbed” by numerous recent allegations of racism and discrimination within City Hall.

But the mayor’s office on Wednesday raised questions about the validity of the letter and questioned its origin.

  • A letter distributed Wednesday lodged many allegations of racism and discrimination against Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk and his administration
  • The letter was written under the NAACP Allentown Branch masthead
  • But the mayor’s office says some of the organization’s leaders — who are named at the top of the letter — only learned about it Wednesday

A five-page letter purporting to be from the NAACP Allentown Branch was distributed to officials, reporters and residents Wednesday.
The letter, dated July 15, was addressed to Tuerk and listed a “concerning number of complaints from Black and Brown employees.”

Those complaints include allegations that some white Allentown police officers said they would shoot their Black colleagues, who are targeted by racial slurs and “are continuously threatened,” the letter said.

Employees of color have reported being “verbally attacked” by their white supervisors in Allentown City Hall; it’s also alleged that “white managers rule out Black and Brown employees during promotions, cutting them off from all company decisions,” the letter states.

The letter also alleges that white police officers were allowed to cheat on exams and says the NAACP has “launched an investigation into these allegations.”

“We are hearing that the letter wasn’t authorized by the [NAACP] board."
Genesis Ortega, Allentown communications manager

The letter makes a slew of other allegations, including that Allentown employees of color feel there is a stricter dress code for them than their white co-workers; that Black and Brown employees don’t receive proper training; and that white employees are free to mock their sexual identities and preferences.

“We will not let this alleged behavior continue at the City of Allentown workplace. Enough is Enough!” the letter states.

Unauthorized letter?

Though the letter was distributed by the NAACP’s email address and includes the names of the organization’s board members, there are questions about where the letter came from and who wrote it.

Allentown Communications Manager Genesis Ortega said the mayor’s office first saw the letter Wednesday, “even though it was dated July 15.”

The names of the NAACP board appear at the top of the letter, but Ortega said they also learned about it Wednesday.

“We are hearing that the letter wasn’t authorized by the board,” Ortega said.

Since learning of the letter Wednesday, Tuerk has been “working to get some clarity on the circumstances” surrounding it, she said.

Ortega did not address specific allegations included in the letter.

NAACP Secretary Barbara Redmond, who appears to have sent the letter, did not respond Wednesday night to LehighValleyNews.com.