ന്യൂയോര്ക്കിലെ പീക്സ് ഹില് ഹൗസിംഗ് അതോറിറ്റി എക്സിക്യൂട്ടീവ് ഡയറക്ടറായിരുന്ന ഗിവര്ഗീസ് `തോമസ്' തങ്കച്ചന് ഒരു മില്യന് ഡോളര് നഷ്ടപരിഹാരം നല്കണമെന്നാണ് ഹൗസിംഗ് അതോറിറ്റിയോട് ഫെഡറല് ജൂറി ഉത്തരവിട്ടിരിക്കുന്നത്്. ഇന്ത്യാക്കാരനാണെന്ന പേരില് തൊഴില് സ്ഥലത്ത് അപമാനിക്കപ്പെട്ടുവെന്നും അടിസ്ഥാനരഹിതമായ ആരോപണങ്ങളുടെ പേരില് ജോലിയില് നിന്ന് പുറത്താക്കിയെന്നുമായിരുന്നു തങ്കച്ചന്റെ പരാതി.
2007 സെപ്റ്റംബറിലാണ് അച്ചടക്ക നടപടിയുടെ പേരില് ഗിവര്ഗീസിനെ 90,000 ഡോളര് ശമ്പളമുള്ള ജോലിയില് നിന്ന് പുറത്താക്കിയത്. വംശീയതയുടെയും Democratic രാഷ്ട്രീയ ബന്ധത്തിന്റെയും പേരിലാണ് ഗിവര്ഗീസിനെ പുറത്താക്കിയതെന്ന അതോറിറ്റി ചെയര്വുമണ് ലീസ്തര് ബ്രൗണ് പിന്നീട് പ്രസ്താവിച്ചതും വിവാദമായിരുന്നു. ഇതിനെതിരെയും തങ്കച്ചന് പരാതി നല്കിയിരുന്നു. ജോലിയില് നിന്ന പുറത്താക്കിയതിനാല് ഗിവര്ഗീസിന് ആനുകൂല്യങ്ങളും നിഷേധിക്കപ്പെട്ടിരുന്നു.
An ousted executive director of the Peekskill Housing Authority in New York was racially discriminated against for being Indian, according to a federal civil jury that has awarded him $1 million in damages.
Gheevarghese "Thomas" Thankachan was fired from his $90,000-a-year job by the agency's board in 2007. At the time, he was accused of a number of failures, including allowing people with criminal records to live in public housing. His September termination followed a two-month suspension earlier that year for reasons that were not made public.
Thankachan sued the PHA and then-acting housing board Chairwoman Leesther Brown, saying he was let go due to his ethnicity and perceived political affiliations.
The trial in federal court in White Plains started Nov. 15. The jury's ruling came late Wednesday.
"The verdict speaks for itself in terms of vindicating Mr. Thankachan and recognizing that his termination was clearly unlawful," said his attorney, Christopher Watkins of Goshen, N.Y.
Thankachan's main claim was that Brown orchestrated his removal because of her bias against his ethnicity, Watkins said.
She referred to him as a member of the Indian Taliban to other PHA employees and made reference to "her country and her people," Watkins said. She also believed Thankachan was closely aligned with Peekskill's Democratic Party, his lawyer said.
In addition to the $1 million in compensatory damages against the housing authority, which is funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the jury awarded Thankachan $250 in punitive damages against Brown personally, Watkins said.
Brown did not return a call for comment. Brian Sokoloff, the attorney for Brown and the PHA, would only say Monday they are reviewing their options.
"There are a number of legal issues we are examining in the wake of this verdict," he said.
Brown took over as acting chairwoman of the board in May 2007 after the resignation of Mel Bolden. She was ousted from the position by Mayor Mary Foster in July 2008, and a new housing board was installed.
Watkins said Thankachan, 57, lost some $900,000 in income, pension and health benefits as a result of his termination.
Thankachan began working for the PHA in 1983 as an account clerk.
After receiving a law degree in 1994, he was made the PHA's staff attorney in 1998. The housing board appointed him executive director in 2003.
Since Thankachan's termination, he began his own successful law practice in White Plains, Watkins said. He has no plans to go back to the PHA, his lawyer said.
The housing authority board is searching for a new executive director. Harold Phipps was appointed to the post in 2009, but his contract was not renewed in the summer. He continues to head the agency until a replacement is found, officials said.
Community activist Darrell Davis, who once served on the PHA board, applauded the jury's findings. In 2007, Davis led a march in support of Thankachan. He has long called for Phipps' resignation.
"I think this verdict says a lot about the politics surrounding the Peekskill Housing Authority, then and now, and proof that we were right in standing up for