Exposure not good for No. 2 race series
By: By JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Two officials suspended by NASCAR are accused in a $225 million lawsuit of exposing themselves to a former co-worker, the Associated Press has learned.
Tim Knox and Bud Moore have been placed on indefinite administrative paid leave.
NASCAR will not reveal the identities of the officials sent home Friday from Kentucky Speedway, but a person familiar with the investigation confirmed to AP on Saturday that Knox and Moore were suspended. The person requested anonymity because NASCAR’s investigation is ongoing.
NASCAR did not give a reason for the men’s suspension, and chairman Brian France cautioned against assuming the officials are being punished for allegations made in the lawsuit.
“Obviously we found some violations in our policy, but I would not jump to conclusions to assume that all of the allegations that were made are accurate,” France said at Michigan International Speedway, site of Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race.
Mauricia Grant filed her suit Tuesday, alleging 23 specific incidents of sexual harassment and 34 specific incidents of racial and gender discrimination during her time as a technical inspector for NASCAR’s second-tier Nationwide Series.
Grant, who is black, claims her October 2007 firing was retaliation for complaining about the way she was treated on the job from her January 2005 hiring.
NASCAR sent a team of investigators from its human resources and legal offices to Kentucky and did 27 interviews away from the track Thursday and Friday. Knox and Moore were found to have possibly engaged in behavior that violated NASCAR policy.
Grant’s suit accuses both men of exposing themselves to her.
The lawsuit contends that at an April 2007 race in Texas, Knox exposed himself in the hospitality suite of their hotel at an officials gathering hosted by Nationwide Series director Joe Balash.
Moore is accused of coming out of his hotel room in Memphis in October 2006 clad only in a towel. The suit says he asked Grant if she wanted to see what was under the towel, opened it, then ducked behind a trash can.
In another incident, Grant claims Moore asked her how it felt to be black. Her suit claims Grant described being black as “a privilege,” and Moore feigned confusion and wondered aloud “how can she be proud of being black?”
Moore also is accused of making lewd sexual advances toward Grant.
France has not addressed the validity of Grant’s claims, but reiterated Saturday that the former official never made a formal complaint or followed NASCAR policy in reporting harassment.
In a telephone interview with the AP, France said he was disappointed Grant never told anyone about the allegations.
“We would have investigated this two years ago if she had said anything,” he said. “But it just defies the imagination that she would have sat in multiple training sessions, in diversity training, would have gone through performance reviews … It just defies logic that she had all these opportunities and never made a formal complaint.”
In fact, France said the investigation has shown she never had anything negative to say about her job.
“She chose to make this about money and about a lawsuit, and we’ll deal with that,” France said.
He added that Grant had an exit interview after her firing and never mentioned any discrimination.
“She had HR on the phone. She was in direct contact and never mentioned a word. It simply defies any logic,” France said during the phone interview. “This amount of charges and the severity of them, for her to just casually say ’I mentioned it to Joe (Balash) and he didn’t do anything about it, so I let it go and never said another word.’ It doesn’t make any sense.”
France insisted NASCAR has a very open path for reporting complaints, with multiple options.
“I would have sure liked to speak to her two years ago,” said France, who has not spoken to Grant since the suit was filed. “And she could have spoken to me at any time. I get e-mails from employees all the time. I’m an easy person in our company to get in touch with.”
Grant’s attorney was not available for comment until Monday.
Grant has said she followed the chain of command all the way to Balash, but stopped short of telling human resources because she was reprimanded by that department for a separate incident two weeks after lodging her complaint. She said she viewed the reprimand, which included a threat of termination, as retaliation for complaining to Balash.
Balash was unavailable for comment following practice Saturday morning for the Nationwide Series race at Kentucky.
Named in the suit are Balash, assistant series director Mike Dolan, two supervisors, NASCAR’s senior manager for business relations, the human resources director and 17 officials who were Grant’s co-workers.
Meanwhile, France said NASCAR held a pair of meetings in Michigan and Kentucky to review its policies with its officials and remind them of the standards to which they are held.
“Obviously, we wanted to make sure, once again, they knew exactly what NASCAR’s policy was in terms of behavior, harassment and certainly racial discrimination of any kind,” France said.
Driver Clint Bowyer, currently atop the Nationwide Series standings, said he doesn’t think publicity from the suspensions and the lawsuit will hurt the series in the long run.
“There’s bad things that happen anywhere you are in the world,” Bowyer said. “Unfortunately, we had one happen here, and we’ll make the best of it and we’ll move forward.”