Racism at City Hall?

By: Paul Aker
By: Paul Aker

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Gary Ingram drives a truck for a living, but Ingram believes the color of his skin is costing him his livelihood.

"They're trying to run me off," Ingram says.

Ingram owns G.I. Hauling. G-I had contracted to carry waste by-products called special waste from a city sewage plant. But G-I lost its renewal contract a few months ago. Ingram says that's because top city finance officials allow racism to effect city contracts.

Ingram says, "I don't think they like the color of my skin."

Ingram secretly made a recording of Assistant City Manager Ernie Garcia, who was sent by City Manager Chris Cherches to meet Ingram at the sewage plant and investigate his claims -- on the tape, Garcia calls several city officials racists.

KAKE's Paul Aker asked Garcia if race played a factor in the decision before he was told of the tape. At the time, Garcia said he didn't think there was a problem with racism at City Hall.

Garcia then heard the tape, along with Sewer and Water Director Dave Warren. On the tape, Garcia makes statements about Wichita's top purchasing officials - the people in charge of Ingram's contract.

Garcia: Have you been reading the paper?

Ingram: Yeah, I have and watching the news.

Garcia: Chris Cherches is under a tremendous amount of pressure. He's gonna be gone. And when he goes, Kathy Holdeman goes, Ray Trail goes, and a lot of those guys who don't like people like you and me -- Mexicans and Blacks.

Later in the tape, Garcia talked about Warren:

Garcia: That son of a b*** Dave --- when I first came to this town and came to this job, I liked him. Then, about three days after that, I began to see him. He's a racist son of a b*** and a lying b***d.

During the interview, Garcia said he was aware that he was being recorded... and that he doesn't believe Warren is a racist. Ingram remains skeptical.

Since the initial interview, the city officials named by Garcia deny racism exists at city hall... and Garcia denies knowing that he was being recorded. He also says he made the statements to win Ingram's trust.

Public records show that the new company, Sproul, doesn't meet some requirements of the contract. City officials say some of those requirements can be waived, according to the contract. City officials also say G-I Hauling didn't fulfill the obligations of its original contract, but a records request didn't turn up any documentation to back that up.

Friday night on KAKE News at 10, we'll have reaction from local groups on this story.

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