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Racine Mayor John Dickert is denying allegations that he and city staffers used racial slurs in emails to refer to minority tavern owners in Racine as part of an ongoing civil rights and racketeering case filed in federal court.

The motion to compel discovery outlines an argument about why the judge should make the city release the emails. The emails are believed to contain “racist” terms and are “conspiratorial” in nature, according to the paperwork filed in federal court Wednesday.

Dickert said he was angered by the allegations outlined in the motion to compel discovery.

“It’s not who I am and not who we are as a city,” Dickert said. “If you look at the sheer volume of work we are doing to build relationships, it’s telling. We are a city of diversity. It’s one of our greatest strengths.”

The motion to compel the emails stems from a federal court cased filed by Thomas Holmes and several other tavern owners who allege that 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 in violation with RICO laws, specifically aimed at minority-owned businesses.

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.

Vince Bobot, an attorney on behalf of the tavern owners, said that the city had an “elaborate plot to drive minority-owned businesses out of Racine,” according to a story by Fox 6 News.

Dickert has been mayor since May 2009 and is running for re-election.

The document alleges that racial slurs were found in the emails from city employees, but the search term list doesn’t include quote marks around the letters. Without the quote marks, Dickert pointed out, the search terms were bringing up letters within words, like the letters “nig” in “night.”

The motion to compel states that a number of racial slurs were found in the documents. However, the motion doesn’t outline the context of the terms found, what types of documents the terms were found in, or who made the statements.

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.”

Dickert said the witness who allegedly heard him saying the statement “in any context, is a lie” and is “a cheap political stunt” because the documents were filed just after the primary election.

“In only one police report was the n-word found where a woman was quoted saying it,” Dickert said.

Both Melvin Hargrove – who will face Dickert in the April general election – and Alderman Edward Diehl said they had no idea the motion had been filed until the story was picked up by local news outlets.

Scott Letteny, deputy city attorney for the City of Racine, issued the following statement:

“The City of Racine is aware of the statements made in a recent Motion filed by the Plaintiffs’ attorneys in the Holmes, et al., v. Dickert, et al., litigation pending in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The allegations regarding the hits for individual search terms found in certain City employees’ emails have been presented out of the context necessary to understand the terms’ usage.”

Words/phrases allegedly found in emails

Supplement to motion

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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