HR Strange But True!
April 13, 2004

On his very first day on the job, the new executive director of the New Orleans City Planning Commission caused an uproar by telling commission employees at a staff meeting that he was eager to plunge into his new duties-as in wanting to "grab the tar baby by the ears and jump right in."

Verl Emrick's use of the term "tar baby," which many view as racially derogatory, led staff members to complain to the office of Mayor Ray Nagin. Emrick quickly tried to mend fences with the staff, apologizing for his comment and assuring everyone he had meant no racial slur. But Nagin's office decided it wanted Emrick out, and the mayor himself publicly denounced the comment as "absolutely unacceptable."

Just two days after his arrival, Emrick saw the handwriting on the wall and left town, according to the Times-Picayune newspaper of New Orleans.

That leaves the Planning Commission with the task of filling the director's job, again. It must decide whether to reopen its candidate search or choose one of the other four finalists from the search that led to the hiring of Emrick, who had been the planning director in Asheville, N.C., for 20 years.

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans

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