by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer
Local attorney Todd Hollis has represented many Pittsburgh-area African Americans who, in their estimation, have been discriminated against because of their race, whether by police, employers or government agencies.
But his latest client is White, who has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Gateway School District and one of its board members, alleging that she didn’t attain the athletic director position because her husband is African American.
Korie Morton-Rozier, the current athletic director at Penn State-Greater Allegheny, is listed as the plaintiff in the lawsuit filed on Jan. 1 in U.S. District Court by Hollis. She’s been married to Keelan Rozier, who is African American, since 2005, according to the lawsuit obtained by the New Pittsburgh Courier.
One of the Gateway School Board members, Richard McIntyre, who also serves as board director, urged Morton-Rozier to apply for the vacant athletic director position early last year. Morton-Rozier was part of the final two candidates for the position, along with Don Holl, who is White and the current Gateway football coach. The lawsuit alleges that when McIntyre asked fellow board member Paul Caliari via text message for his vote on Feb. 11, 2020, Caliari responded: “Didn’t she start dating the darkies” — which Morton-Rozier believed was a derogatory reference to her African American husband.
‘Nobody should be denied a position based on who they love.’ – Attorney Todd Hollis
Caliari, according to Hollis, wasn’t aware that his text message was sent to multiple people, in addition to McIntyre. Susan Delaney, an African American school board member, responded to Caliari via text: “Paul, please explain your text so I don’t misunderstand you.”
Caliari responded to Delaney, and others: “I went to college with 2 brothers named Brian and Pete Darki. A buddy of mine used to date his wife. He asked me whatever happened to her and I told him she started dating one of the darkies.”
Hollis told the Courier on Jan. 4, three days after the lawsuit was filed, that he contacted Waynesburg University, where Caliari was an undergraduate, and was told there was no record of anyone with the surname of “Darki” ever attending the school.
“Despite her qualifications for the position of athletic director, the (Gateway) school district rejected her application for the position because she was, and remains, married to an African American man,” the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit read that the district “refused to hire her based on one school board member’s racially motivated deciding vote on whether to hire her, and the rest of the members’ knowing acquiescence and ratification of the racist decision.”
Morton-Rozier is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
“But for Mr. Caliari’s decision to reject Mrs. Rozier because of the racial identity of her husband, Mrs. Morton-Rozier would have been hired for the athletic director position within the Monroeville school district,” read the lawsuit.
“…As a result of defendants’ conduct, Mrs. Morton-Rozier suffered physical and psychological injury.”
Caliari gave a public statement on the matter to WTAE-TV (Channel 4), when he told reporter Sheldon Ingram on Jan. 4 that he does not oppose Morton-Rozier’s interracial marriage.
“Absolutely not! That’s simply 100% untrue. I was in favor of Kori getting the position,” Caliari was quoted as saying.
“To the extent that who she’s married to becomes part of the equation, that’s a problem,” Hollis responded in the WTAE report.
“…Nobody should be denied a position based on who they love.”
Kenneth Huston, president of the Pennsylvania NAACP and the NAACP Allegheny East Chapter, which includes Monroeville, has called on Caliari to resign.
Korie Morton-Rozier, who is married to a Black man, has filed a lawsuit against the Gateway School District in Monroeville and one of its board members, claiming discrimination.