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A response from the city filed Monday in federal court calls racist allegations against Mayor John Dickert and other city staffers “highly inflammatory” and false.

The document was filed in response to a motion to compel as part of a case involving minority tavern owners who say Dickert, former Racine Mayor Gary Becker, former Racine Police Chief Kurt Wahlen, and a number of other city council members committed civil rights violations and engaged in racketeering, which the plaintiffs believe violated RICO laws.

The first motion to compel the emails stems from a federal court case filed by Thomas Holmes and several other tavern owners on Feb. 19 allege that Dickert,

The defense filed a motion Monday in federal court opposing the allegations, saying that the search words found in the city’s emails either did not characterize what was said accurately or were not said by a municipal employee. Lawyers also argued against allegations that a witness heard Dickert make a racially derogatory statement, and that Dickert’s campaign accepted “several illegal contributions.”

Holmes’ attorney is trying to compel the city to turnover emails prior to when Dickert became Mayor in June 2009. The city is providing emails dated from June 2009 to present, but it has refused to give emails from January 2006 through May 2009. The motion filed Wednesday also states that the city is willing to give the tavern owners the documents if they pay for them. City officials told Holmes’ attorney that the cost would be between $19,000 and $36,000, according to federal court documents.

Holmes’ and the other tavern owners implied in the first motion that the employees were the ones that used the racial slurs. But the defense argued in their motion: “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The defense says the words were used out of context. One example highlighted in the motion to compel was the use of the word “Charlie” coming up 14,683 times, but the emails referred to a person named Charlie and not a racial slur. Another term was the “n-word,” a racial slur describing a black person, but the term was used while searching police reports where other people were quoted saying the word, not municipal staff. “Monkey” was also allegedly used 1,675 times, but this was because it either referred to a bar called the Brass Monkey or the monkeys in the Racine Zoo.

Still, the motion alleges that a “non-party witness” testified that Dickert said: “It is time for these (racial slur) to go back to Waukegan.”

Penny Sharp is the witness who allegedly heard Dickert.The mayor, though, says the statement “in any context, is a lie” and is “a cheap political stunt” because the documents were filed just after the primary election. The two witnesses who Sharp said were present during the incident, Robert and Sally Henzl, denied hearing Dickert make the statements.

“Sharp’s wild accusations are not surprising since she has a long history of being outspoken against Mayor Dickert,” the motion reads. “She opposed him in his 2011 and 2015 elections (even attempting to run against him in 2011 when she did not even live in the City of Racine and she claims that many entities and individuals in Racine are ‘racist,’ including African-American leaders in the Racine Branch of the NAACP.”

A separate motion also claimed that a campaign staffer of Dickert’s tried to hide campaign contributions, an allegation that Dickert denies and blamed on bad accounting, according to a story in the Journal Times.

The story outlined how two staffers argued about how the campaign finance books were being kept. Ultimately money was returned to the campaign donors.

The tavern owners’ attorney, Michael Hart of Kohler & Hart, S.C., told the Journal Times:

“I suppose you can spin it any way they want, but if you read it and take her words at their face value, she is not talking about mistakes.”

The tavern owners are expected to file another motion sometime today, and the judge is expected to hold a hearing on Thursday.

Read the city’s: Opposition To Plaintiffs’ Motion To Compel Electronically Stored Information and in support of motion for protective order

Words/phrases allegedly found in emails

Plaintiff’s supplement to motion

Plaintiffs’ motion to compel

Original complaint by Thomas Holmes vs. John Dickert

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.

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