LUBBOCK, TX -- Mayor Glen Robertson and local media outlets were accused Thursday morning of racial prejudices and smearing Lubbock Power & Light Director Gary Zheng.
An open letter was sent to the Mayor from the Texas Tech Chinese Faculty and Staff Association and others in the Chinese American communities in Lubbock. It claimed that Robertson’s comments and the media’s reporting were reminiscent of a “McCarthyist style of witch-hunt.”
“At this point, we want to know why you have continued to smear Dr. Zheng,” the letter said. “… Not a shred of evidence has been found against Dr. Zheng.”
In October allegations surfaced that Zheng mishandled bids for a major power supply project at LP&L. The LP&L board voted twice on a proposal to fire Zheng; in both cases it was not approved and Zheng remains the director.
Later an internal investigation by the Ashcroft Law Firm cleared Zheng of any criminal wrongdoing.
However, Zheng admitted he accepted information from someone associated with one of the bidders – creating the appearance that one bidder had an unfair advantage over the others. The Ashcroft report said Zheng did not know at the time that the other person was a consultant for the one of the bidders.
The bids were thrown out and the bidding process restarted.
“This is the only decision we could make because of the compromised bidding process,” said LP&L board member Charles Dunn on March 3.
Robertson responded late Thursday morning with his own open letter.
“I am very troubled that you would attempt to make this a racial issue,” Robertson wrote. “The only mention of race in this entire issue has been made by you and your association.”
The Chinese Faculty and Staff Association’s letter drew a parallel between Zheng and Dr. Wen Ho Lee, a former nuclear scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
It said, “Dr. Lee was first slanted by the New York Times and other media as a Chinese spy, then subjected to various interrogations.”
Ultimately Lee pleaded guilty to one of 59 federal charges, and he settled out-of-court with the federal government along with five media outlets for $1.65 because his name was leaked prior to the filing of criminal charges.
A federal judge apologized to Lee and accused prosecutors of making misrepresentations in court that “have embarrassed our entire nation and each of us who is a citizen.”
“… Implicit racism against Chinese is still rampant in our culture and society,” the association’s letter said. “Dr. Zheng has now been victimized twice by racial prejudices while working at Lubbock Power & Light; he was first referred to as ‘a Chinaman’ at City Council meetings back in 2003.”
“We demand that you publicly acknowledge the conclusion of the Ashcroft Law Group … which clears Dr. Zheng of any wrongdoing, and apologize to him, his family, and our Chinese and Chinese American community in Lubbock.”
Robertson responded, “Instead of answering your demand, I would instead simply ask that you refrain from attempting to make this a racial issue in what appears to be preparation for future litigation.”
Even after the Ashcroft report, Robertson has said in his opinion Zheng should have been fired.
“My sole focus is working with the Electric Utility Board, my staff at LP&L, the Mayor and City Council of Lubbock and all interested stakeholders in this community to tackle the very real challenges before us. I am appreciative of anyone’s support but it is important for everyone to know that I did not have any part in organizing or encouraging the letter distributed by TTU Chinese Faculty and Chinese American community of Lubbock.”