Transgender woman alleges discrimination by Washington County
A transgender woman says Washington County ended her contract to run the boathouse and concession stand at Hagg Lake after a physical confrontation Oct. 1 with Carl Switzer, the county parks superintendent.
Jillian Robinson alleges discrimination and intimidation by Switzer. The county manages Hagg Lake and Scoggins Valley Park under an agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Scoggins Dam near Gaston.
Robinson said last week she has asked county officials to investigate, but even if there are grounds for her complaint, "They said the contract is still terminated" as of Nov. 1. "I do not understand how that is fair."
A spokeswoman for the county administrative office said in a statement Monday: "The county takes complaints of this type very seriously and is following a standard response protocol by conducting an internal investigation into the matter."
She did confirm "this is a no-fault termination" of a contract that was due to end May 31, 2020. The notice was signed by a county official other than Switzer.
"County counsel is the county's attorney," Robinson said. "They are not there to defend me."
Robinson said she has filed a complaint with the Bureau of Reclamation, which has referred it to the Office of Civil Rights of the Interior Department, the bureau's parent agency.
Switzer was appointed county parks superintendent in 2016 after the departure of Todd Winter, and is responsible for three parks, Scoggins Valley Park/Hagg Lake being the largest. His job falls under the Facilities and Park Services Division of Support Services, which is overseen by the county administrator.
Robinson signed a one-year contract with the county in June 2018 to run the boathouse, which rents boats, canoes, kayaks, paddle boards and pedal boats under the name Robinson Family Lake House. It also sells food and beverages, and received its state liquor license on Friday, Oct. 11.
A second one-year contract was signed in May.
"I am being forced out of here," Robinson said in a telephone interview Friday.
"When i first came out as trans nine months ago, things started getting progressively harder to operate the business. He (Switzer) wouldn't address me by my proper name or gender. He wouldn't even add my new name onto the contract. He said it was not important and did not need it on there."
The conflict stepped up a notch after Switzer informed Robinson that she could not fly a
Black Lives Matter flag at the boathouse. Robinson said there had been no controversy about flying other flags: Rainbow flag for gays and lesbians, transgender flag, armed services flags, and the U.S. flag.
"Once the Black Lives Matter thing happened, that's when I started being denied access to the public building," Robinson said, and was unable to receive mail and medications that she qualified for as veterans' benefits because of her six-year service in the Navy.
On Oct. 1, Robinson said Switzer pushed his body against Robinson in an attempt to force his way into the boathouse. "I told him he could not enter," she said. "But he said this was county property and he could come in whenever he wanted."
Robinson said her manager stepped in to deflect further confrontation.
Afterward, Robinson said she went directly to the board of commissioners, which referred the dispute to the administrative staff.
The county spokeswoman said: "The county has no plans for continuing outside concession services at this time."
Friends of Robinson have started an online petition to generate support for her.
"We've never had any issues up here," Robinson said. "The community absolutely loves us. All we do is get compliments. Just to be in business for two years and then get forced out at the end of the year, I am set to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars I've invested in this business.
"It's also unfair to the community, which will not have these services. It is because one guy does not like me because I am a little different."
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