I-TEAM: County worker fired for racist texts gets job back

CLEVELAND -- The FOX 8 I-TEAM has found a Cuyahoga County Public Works Supervisor fired for racist text messages has been brought back to work for the county.

Records show, last year, the county fired Erin Shelman, a maintenance supervisor.

A disciplinary letter shows Shelman sent “…text messages that were…racist”, made “…inappropriate comments of a sexual nature…” and he referred to crews with mostly minority workers as the “soul patrol."

Records obtained by the I-TEAM said the county also found Shelman showed no remorse, said he did nothing wrong and twice gave “false information.”

But then, he appealed to the County’s Personnel Review Commission.

Appeal records indicate some complaints against Shelman were not backed up. But, “two texts sent were racially offensive and his general language was profane and unprofessional.”

A hearing officer recommended Shelman be brought back to work and given back pay, but the hearing officer also suggested Shelman be demoted.

A recording from the Personnel Review Commission shows the county did not object.

Civil rights attorney James Hardimann spoke out.

He said, "We're really, really appalled at this." Adding, "Actually put him back with back pay, it’s an insult to all the people of color that live in or work for the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, the state of Ohio."

We left multiple messages for Shelman and he did not call back. His lawyer also did not return a message.

Shelman was demoted to foreman which is still considered a supervisory position.

A spokesperson for the county explained why officials did not object to Shelman coming back to work for them. They considered what the hearing officer found, considered the evidence and they determined they might not win if the firing ended up in court. So, the county went along with the demotion.

A spokesperson says Shelman now earns $56,000 a year.

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