On Monday, Antoinette Hodge will be sworn in as Uniontown, Pennsylvania’s first Black city treasurer. However, according to Action News 4, she almost wasn’t granted the position. Hodge is suing a city council member for allegedly trying to block her from office because she is Black.
In order to take office, Hodge had to get an insurance bond, which is required for elected officials under state law. When she initially applied for the bond she was denied. Hodge says she didn’t receive the bond after City Council member Martin Gatti made a racist comment to the bonding company.
“This councilman told the bonding people ‘this colored girl’ shouldn’t sit as the treasurer for the city of Uniontown,” explained Joel Sansone, Hodge’s attorney. “It was like, you’ve got to be kidding me, because by now you would figure people are over that. We’ve had a black president.”
Hodge filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday against Gatti, the city of Uniontown and City Clerk Kim Marshall, who is Gatti’s sister-in-law. The suit accuses Gatti, Marshall and the city of conspiring to prevent Hodge from taking office. Hodge is also fighting for an injunction to force the city to seat her as treasurer. Hodge’s bond eventually got approved on Tuesday and on Thursday afternoon, the city solicitor explained that Hodge will be allowed to take office. Hodge is still continuing with the lawsuit, however.
Pennsylvania NAACP President Kenneth Houston announced the suit at a news conference, saying, “This is the most blatant form of ignorance that I have ever seen or heard of in my 50-plus years of living.”
Gatti denied making racist remarks at a council meeting on Monday. “I have never ever been accused of anything racial in my life,” he said. “Finances are finances. I don’t know how race got in this.”
In a statement reacting to the lawsuit Wednesday, Gatti said: “I did not nor have I ever made a political or professional decision based on race. I had every right to follow up on her bond status and whether or not all the facts were provided when the (bond) company found out that information had been withheld.”
Gatti and other city officials argue that the only reason a bond would be denied is if Hodge had a poor credit rating. Hodge explained that she was a victim of identity theft, which impacted her credit rating. But it shouldn’t have prevented her bond approval, considering she eventually got approved.
“It was about race. It was not about my credit because if it was my credit, the bond never would have been issued in the first place,” she said.
Sansone added, “To have her kept out because she is Black is a throwback to the days of slavery, which we are just not going to accept.”