This is the kind of stuff you can’t make up. What happened to a white New York City transit supervisor after he was caught in full blackface years ago?
Trick question. Nothing happened. Well, to be precise, he got promoted despite complaints from employees, raking in more than $200,000 a year. It was only after almost five years had passed since the original incident—this week, as a matter of fact—that some comeuppance was had.
According to the New York Post, as of Thursday, Metropolitan Transportation Authority general supervisor Richard Ranallo had been suspended “indefinitely” by order of Catherine Rinaldi, president of the Metro-North commuter rail, a division of the MTA.
“He’s being withheld from service indefinitely while we assess our options,” said MTA spokesman Jon Weinstein.
However, naturally, Ranallo will still be cutting that sweet paycheck while he’s suspended.
Ranallo was just a mere supervisor of electricians when he attended a 2013 Halloween party dressed in blackface as a lawn jockey. He had smeared his face and hands with some black substance and wore a blue-and-white checked jockey uniform and cap, carrying a railroad-style lantern.
Those photos were shared on Facebook, and employees who saw them reported them to the higher-ups.
But nary a fuck was given.
According to an NBC New York I-Team investigation, which exposed the story, nothing happened. Former employee Randy Morgan, who is now retired, complained, telling the assistant of Ranallo’s boss about the photos. That assistant said that they were aware of the photos.
Morgan also complained to the railroad’s equal employment and diversity office, which confirmed that Morgan, along with four other employees, had reported the incident.
“It’s kind of like wearing a KKK outfit, just kind of screams at you,” Morgan said. “He’s dressed up in blackface, which is abhorrent to many people on many levels.”
Electrical foreman John Barrow was among those who had complained about the photos, only to be seemingly ignored.
“It was a hurtful feeling to see someone, especially a supervisor, displaying that kind of behavior,” he told NBC New York. “I reported it to my direct supervisor.”
The supervisor said he’d look into it but never mentioned it again. What employees heard next shook them. In June 2014, Ranallo was promoted to general supervisor, managing even more workers.
The Post notes that last year he made some $246,255 on the job.
“What it says to me is, you bring it up, and there’s that target on your back,” said Morgan, adding that the promotion left him feeling that Ranallo was “untouchable.”
The only thing Ranallo was required to do, according to Metro-North, was remove the photos from Facebook and go through five days of sensitivity training.
Barrow remembered that after he had complained and was applying for a position, Ranallo told him, “‘Don’t feel that you guys, now or in the future, are entitled to an interview.’”
In 2016, Barrow was suspended for an unspecified safety violation. Ranallo gave him the news accompanied by an armed escort, prompting Barrow to now plan to file a lawsuit, claiming retaliation.
“He came in there with several MTA PDs, and he removed me out of service pending an investigation,” Barrow recalled.
At any rate, now the MTA is changing its tune. On Wednesday, according to the Post, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota slammed Ranallo’s behavior as racist and bashed the Metro-North bosses who promoted him.
He said that neither he nor Metro-North President Rinaldi knew of the situation until NBC New York’s exposé.
Lhota said that agency officials were currently seeing what kind of discipline Ranallo’s labor contract allowed, and that he and Rinaldi would be working toward creating a better culture for exposing racist incidents.