David Womble Kept His County Job Despite Complaints About Racist Jokes. Then He Flipped Someone the Bird and Got Canned.
You'll remember David Womble as the charming Dallas County maintenance supervisor who, according to several former jail employees, once donned a set of fake gold teeth during a meeting with subordinates, said something to the effect of "This is how we do it in the 'hood," and began to strut theatrically around the room.
This is the same guy who once allegedly called a black employee to his side to share a hilarious cell phone animation depicting a cooked and dressed turkey, topped by a black guy's head, running around and gobbling "NIGGER, NIGGER, NIGGER."
There were other allegations not directly linked to Womble that nonetheless spoke to a general atmosphere of racial intolerance in the maintenance department at the Dallas County jail. One employee once found "white power" scrawled on the walls of the shuttered Decker Jail. On another occasion, a lynched Coke Zero can was left hanging in full view of black employees for several months. There were lots of racist and homophobic jokes bandied about.
All of that, plus a bit more, was laid out in a $60 million discrimination lawsuit filed against Dallas County last June by several former employees.
That suit is winding its way through federal court. In the meantime, Dallas County has fired Womble.
County officials declined to speak to Womble's termination, saying only that he no longer works for the county, but personnel records show that he was canned on December 29 for "gross misconduct."
The misconduct in question is not related to the lawsuit, at least not officially. Rather, the firing stemmed from an October 17 meeting at which, in the presence of representatives of Parkland Hospital and and a private construction firm, Womble gave the finger and said "Fuck you" to one of his employees, Greg Gray.
"Even though Mr. Gray believes this was your way of saying hello to him it would have still been embarrassing and inappropriate," Womble's boss, Dale Lilley, wrote in a memo to Womble dated October 30. "The fact that it was done in the presence of the rest of the meeting participants and, offensive to some, if not all, of the participants, this would be totally inappropriate."
Womble responded by email the same day.
"Dale, I will not deny that I waived (sic) to Mr. Gray," he wrote. "If some people mistook it as a Obscene Jester (sic) then I cannot help them. I do not believe this warrants any further discussion. I would like to face my accusers. Because of the constant threat of losing my job because of false accusations I have contemplated doing self harm I am requesting to go out on FMLA."
Womble does not elaborate in the email on why he felt his job was under "constant threat," and he hasn't responded to an email seeking comment. (A number listed for Womble was answered by a woman who said she didn't know the man). But Womble's personnel file provides some clues.
In July 2011, Womble was investigated for allegations -- possibly related to the lawsuit, though it's not clear from the documents -- that he took an "inappropriate action" regarding his "professional relationship" with one of his employees. An internal investigation concluded the charges to be "unfounded," but Lilley warned Womble to be careful considering his "past history in dealing with employees and others."
One episode from that history happened in February 2009, when Womble was approached by two Parkland nurses during a maintenance meeting. One of them requested that a coat rack be placed in the West Tower of Lew Sterrett Jail.
"I talked clearly and repeated my request several times, however [Womble] seemed not taking my request seriously," the nurse wrote in a formal complaint. "[I]nstead he said 'We don't give Kotex' and then all the men around him laughed."
Womble's issued his response to the complaint via email.
"I asked her what she wanted done and in very poor English from around the corner this person is asking for a Co co co co and I heard and then I said kotex and yes my crew laughed," he wrote.
In a written reprimand, Lilley called the incident "very unprofessional and totally unnecessary" and noted that it recalled similar behavior in 2003 that led to an unpaid, five-day suspension for Womble.
The reasons for that were described in a reprimand issued by his supervisor at the time:
Several people told me that you told a story that happened in college that dealt with the KKK hanging of a black man. You apparently told the story thinking it was a joke, but several individuals did not think of it as a joke. There was also a story about your dad selling cars to 'wet backs' that was not very well received. These are just examples of some of the improper jokes that have been told.
Womble also allowed certain favored employees do crossword puzzles on the clock and made the workers who ratted him out do grunt work like cleaning toilets. The reprimand concluded with an admonishment to act in a more professional manner.
"Spending several minutes of the day on your political and racial views and giving special treatment to some is not what the staff expects nor wants," his supervisor wrote.
Still, as late as August 2012, Womble got fairly high marks from his supervisors on an annual performance review, albeit with several caveats.
"Your manners are not always the best," one comment reads. "You have all the skills and get it done just not always in a way that is considerate or respectful of others," says another."Although everyone gets exactly what you mean you sometimes communicate in an unprofessional manner."
Four months later, that behavior caught up with him.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.
- That's It Then: The Cowboys 2015 Season Gets Put Out of Its Misery
Sat., Nov. 28, 12:00am
Sat., Nov. 28, 7:00pm
Sat., Nov. 28, 7:30pm
Sun., Nov. 29, 2:00pm
- The Cowboys' 5 Biggest Thanksgiving Turkeys
- Live From London: Your Holiday Weekend Weather Apocaforecast