When his request to use a cart was not included in the settlement offer of a year of free golf, Dwayne Harrison backed out of the deal.
In his talks to drop a complaint stemming from a racist comment directed at him more than a year ago by the superintendent of the Hollenback golf course in Wilkes-Barre, Harrison said he was continuing to scale back his demands for money and free play. But the refusal of the Municipal General Authority which runs Hollenback as well as the Wilkes-Barre Municipal Golf Course to agree to his latest request forced Harrison to reject the settlement.
“They offered me a one-year subscription to the muni. I would have taken it if they offered me the cart card,” Harrison said Wednesday. Harrison, 56, from Forty Fort, said after speaking with his wife about how he was being treated, he made up his mind.
“I felt like they weren’t giving me anything,” he says.
Last June, Harrison filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission detailing what happened on the afternoon of April 6, 2021 when he and a partner were about to play Hollenback, a public course that the town of Wilkes-Barre leased to the GMA to make sure.
The complaint and a similar complaint filed by NAACP Branch No. 2306 Wilkes-Barre said course director John Kebles Sr. approached Harrison and said, “I had no idea they allowed black people to play here.”
The complaints said Kebles then approached Harrison and said, “I hope you weren’t offended by what I said earlier.”
Without naming Kebles, the GMA later issued an apology on May 6, 2021, saying a “golf course employee used unacceptable and racially insensitive language when addressing a customer.” He added that the employee would “be appropriately disciplined, receive sensitivity training and offer Dwayne Harrison a public apology for his behavior.”
Kebles’ apology appeared in the Times Leader on May 21, 2021. “Although my remark was made in a joking manner, almost immediately after my remark I realized it was inappropriate. I have struggled since that moment to find the words to express enough how disappointed I am in myself as well as my regret for making a hurtful statement,” Kebles said.
Harrison called on the GMA to fire Kebles, who is still working on the courses. The GMA declined to comment on how Kebles was disciplined.
Board member Charles Majikes said Wednesday it was a staffing issue and also declined to comment. Harrison said he was dealing with the PHRC and not the GMA. He began by asking for a financial settlement.
“My first offer was $8,000. They refused and I asked for $4,000. They also refused,” he said. The next request was for one year at the muni, which was later increased to two years, Harrison said.
“They first offered me Hollenback. I said, ‘Why the hell would I want to go back?’ “, Harrison said.
Harrison said the discussion returned to a year at the municipal golf course. The PHRC came back with an offer and Harrison said he would accept it if they added the use of a golf cart. The cart was however not included in the final bid.
Harrison allowed a reporter to view the settlement agreement mailed to him earlier this month by the PHRC.
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The state agency investigates reports of discrimination and works with the parties in a complaint to resolve it. Harrison was offered “a season pass to the Wilkes-Barre Municipal Golf Course.”
A letter dated April 1 that accompanied the agreement notified Harrison that he had 10 days to sign, date and return it to PHRC. Harrison said he was on vacation when the letter arrived and contacted PHRC who gave him more time. But Harrison neither signed nor returned it.
The letter sent to Harrison stated that if he did not accept the offer, “upon a formal decision by our legal department, the matter will be closed administratively.” The PHRC did not return calls for comment on Wednesday.
Harrison said he has not yet received a notice from the PHRC on the status of his case.
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