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Grandview Golf Club hearing begins today: What we know

Written by Candy Woodall,/The York Daily Record | Jun 21, 2018 7:08 AM
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Sandra Thompson, right, speaks alongside Sandra Harrison, both golfers and members of a group of local women known as Sisters in the Fairway, during an interview with The Associated Press, Tuesday April 24, 2018 in York. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

(Undated) -- The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission on Thursday afternoon will hold a public hearing in York on the Grandview Golf Club incident from April 21, when five black women were asked to leave the course and cops were called twice. 

The incident attracted national attention and inspired the hashtag #golfingwhileblack. 

Thursday's hearing, which will continue for a full day Friday, gives everyone a chance to "explore the truth from an objective standpoint," said Chad Lassiter, executive director of the commission.

"Something on that golf course happened that prompted someone to call police," he said. "Let's hope it doesn't happen again and use this as a teachable moment."

This report will be updated during the hearing. 

Hearing details: The hearing will be held 1 to 5 p.m. Thursday and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at York City Council Chambers, 101 S. George St. and are open to the public.

What happened at the golf course?

On April 21, Northern York County Regional Police were called twice on the group of golfers because of alleged slow play, though other golfers on the Dover Township course have defended the women and said they were keeping proper pace of the game.

The women were at the second hole the first time police were called at 11:24 a.m. Grandview management called police a second time, at 1:26 p.m. that day, just as the women were reaching the 10th hole.

Police met with the women and course management and determined there was not a police issue, Chief Mark Bentzel said.

The women left, and no charges were filed.

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The parking lot is full at Grandview Golf Club Sunday April 22, 2018. (Photo: Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record)

Who are the golfers?

The five women who say they faced racial and gender discrimination include Thompson, 50, president of the York branch of the NAACP and a former candidate for county judge; Myneca Ojo, 56; sisters Sandra Harrison, 59, and Carolyn Dow, 56; and Karen Crosby, 58.

Who called police?

Former York County Commissioner Steve Chronister can be heard on 911 recordings obtained by the York Daily Record. 

Chronister, his son Jordan and other employees approached Thompson and Ojo, saying they had five minutes to leave and the police had been called, Thompson said. They were also offered checks to refund their memberships.

What is Chronister's role at the golf course? 

He is not listed as an owner on any public records. 

His daughter-in-law, J.J., in April said Chronister worked at Grandview in an advisory role. 

It's a family business among Chronister's son, Jordan, and his brother-in-law, York County Controller Greg Bower, and others. 

What do the 911 calls say?

Steve Chronister called at 11:20 a.m. and at about 1:25 p.m. Both times he was asked if there were any weapons.

"No. Just her mouth," he said on the second call.

Chronister also told the dispatcher he knew Thompson. 

"She ran for judge. She's an attorney. She knows it all," Chronister told the dispatcher. "She totally thinks we're being racist. We're not being racist. We're being golf course management that has to have play moving a certain way."

You can listen to the full recordings, minus Steve Chronister's phone number, of two 911 phone calls from Grandview Gulf Club. Maddie Crocenzi, mcrocenzi@ydr.com

 

Why is there a public hearing? 

The state Human Relations Commission, which was created to enforce anti-discrimination laws, typically opens a case once an individual files a complaint, but it does have authority to initiate an investigation without a complaint if it thinks it's warranted.

Ultimately, the commission agreed with public calls for an investigation and decided to hold a hearing, collecting evidence through witness statements.

"The commissioners chose to authorize this investigatory hearing because of public reports about this matter and racial tension concerns raised by the public reports regarding this matter," Lassiter said.

The York Daily Record first reported the incident on April 22, with video footage, which was picked up by national news organizations. 

As the story grew, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat from York County, and state Sen. Vincent Hughes, a Democrat from Philadelphia, called on the Human Relations Commission to investigate. 

Who will be at the hearing? 

The commission has not released a list of witnesses, though it's believed at least one expert witness will testify and explain implicit bias. 

Thompson said she will be at the hearing. 

Chronister and his attorney have not responded to repeated calls seeking comment for nearly two months. On April 30, he told the York Daily Record he'd love for people to know the full story but has since declined comment.

How does a Human Relations Commission hearing work? 

"The purpose of the hearing is to gather information and make recommendations designed to alleviate tension and to prevent problems from occurring in the future," Lassiter said.

Lawyers for the parties involved may submit questions for the commission to consider, but the attorneys will not be able to question any witnesses. Only commissioners and commission counsel will be allowed to ask questions, he said.

If more time is needed, additional days will be scheduled.

When the hearing ends, commissioners will evaluate the evidence and issue a report that may include recommendations.

Those recommendations are, technically, not binding. But if they're not followed, the commission can file a complaint that leads to another hearing and new recommendations that are binding.

What kind of recommendations will be made?

That's unclear and depends on witness testimony. 

The commission's past recommendations have included cease and desist orders, front pay and back pay in employment cases, changes in policies and practices, damages for embarrassment and humiliation, and more. 

Will any other actions be taken? 

That's unclear. 

After the commission announced the hearing, Thompson said she filed a complaint with the state agency and also a federal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

It's unknown what, if anything, will come of the EEOC complaint. 

Other incidents

Recent cases include a tweetstorm from Roseanne Barr that led to ABC canceling her namesake hit show and an incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks that led to a policy change and anti-bias training.

The Grandview incident attracted national attention, reaction from celebrities and golf invitations from across the country, including one from the Tuskegee Airmen.

The public hearing is expected to draw more attention as commissioners question witnesses and listen to testimony. 

"The nation is watching," Lassiter said. 

 

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