CONCORD, N.H. — The state ports director won reappointment Wednesday despite acknowledging using a racist term to refer to someone of Middle Eastern descent. He had apologized for that remark but denied allegations that he hurled similar slurs in the workplace.
Geno Marconi agreed to take diversity training and apologized to the Executive Council, which confirmed him unanimously for another five-year term as state ports and harbor director. Gov. John Lynch chose not to veto the decision of the council, a five-member elected body that approves contracts and appointments.
A longshoreman, a union local president and a pay agent for longshoremen accused Marconi of using the term “sand nigger” in talking about a “Captain A.” in front of his staff and stevedores at the port of Portsmouth.
The men told investigators from the state attorney general’s office that Marconi also called Captain A., who was trying to bring container-ship service to Portsmouth, a “towel head” and a “camel jockey,” and that he referred to someone else as a “New York Jew with the chink wife.”
Marconi told an investigator he probably said “sand nigger,” but not in reference to Captain A. He did not say in what context he made the remark, and he denied making the other comments.
Accusers' motives questioned
The investigators questioned the motives of Marconi’s accusers, saying they came forward this spring, shortly before Marconi had been set to be reappointed, even though their allegations date to 2004. The investigators also concluded that Captain A.’s loss of his contract with the port did not result from racial animus on Marconi’s part.
The investigators said they could not prove that Marconi referred to anyone in particular as the “New York Jew and his chink wife,” but said he may have used the phrase while telling a story.
After reviewing the report, the Pease Development Authority, which supervises the port, decided against firing Marconi, authority Chairman Arthur Nickless said.
“We feel he’s doing a good job,” Nickless said. “I think it really comes down to how credible were the complaints, who was making them and why.”
Dan Ball, owner of Port-City Stevedore & Linehandling Inc., contacted Lynch’s office initially with complaints about Marconi’s behavior. His company is a pay agent for longshoremen working in Portsmouth. William Roach, part-time harbor master and president of the International Longshoreman’s Association, and James Geekie, owner of Global Pallet and Packaging and a longshoreman, also complained.
Roach and Ball did not immediately return telephone messages Wednesday afternoon. No listing could be found for Geekie.
Governor condemns, then concurs
The governor called the derogatory language “offensive and inappropriate” but acceded to the authority’s wishes, Lynch spokeswoman Pam Walsh said.
The Executive Council confirmed Marconi at a meeting in Laconia. Messages were left Wednesday evening with most of the council’s members, but none were immediately returned.
As part of the deal to keep his job, Marconi issued a public apology, agreed to the release of the report and agreed to complete a diversity training program.
“I understand that such behavior is never appropriate,” Marconi wrote. “I will never use inappropriate language at the port again, and I will work to ensure that all staff at the port conducts themselves with the highest degree of professionalism.”
Reached later in Portsmouth, Marconi said, “The only thing that I have to say is that I thank the governor and Executive Council and Pease Development Authority for having the confidence in me to continue doing this job.”
Captain A. has been identified in news accounts as Capt. Fiaz H. Arain, a professor at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy who was born in India.
Reached by telephone Wednesday, Arain said Marconi never said anything derogatory to him in person. Asked to comment on Marconi’s reappointment, Arain said, “It’s not my business.”
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