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Mayor Glen Robertson said the allegations that LP&L CEO and Director Gary Zheng faces racism in his position are completely false.
"It was a very accusatory letter," Robertson said. "It went back and was dating back into the 1800s and acts against Chinese Americans in the late 1800s. As a society, we've got to get past this."
Texas Tech's Chinese Faculty and Staff Association drafted the open letter to the mayor, stating Zheng has continued to be portrayed as being dishonest and deserving demotion, even though no evidence has been found against him in the Ashcroft Report.
"Back in March, there's a report from the Ashcroft Law Firm clearing Dr. Zheng from any wrongdoings. So at that time, we thought that would be the end of it," Tech Associate Professor and member of the association Daan Liang said. "But then we continue to hear negative comments."
LP&L Electric Utility Board Member Charles Dunn wrote a response letter to the association speaking only for himself. He said the public criticism of Dr. Zheng has nothing to do with his Chinese ancestry, and everything to do with his job performance.
"I felt like the criticism directed at the Mayor was unjust," Dunn said. "Dr. Zheng is the highest paid individual in the City of Lubbock, and the highest paid individual at LP&L. He's responsible for a $200,000,000 budget, 300 employees, and the buck stops with Dr. Zheng. We, as board members, have to hold Dr. Zheng responsible, because that's what the public does."
The letter from the association stated Zheng has now been victimized by racial prejudices twice while working with LP&L.
"I don't think there was explicitly any racist comments, but what I find is there's a lot of implicit racism there," Tech Associate Professor and member of the association Yuan Shu said.
But both Dunn and Mayor Robertson agree that this letter is taking time, energy and attention away from what really matters-- handling the issues at LP&L.
"The City of Lubbock has some major issues," Robertson said. "Now we are a great city, but we've got some giant issues with LP&L. We need to solve them. We need to solve them by sitting down and working like adults, working professionally. Stuff like this is just a diversion. It hurts the progress, and actually sets us back instead of helping us."
Dunn said the last thing LP&L customers think about is whether or not Gary Zheng is of Chinese ancestry, but why this organization isn't running better. He compared Zheng's position to Kliff Kingsbury's because he is always in the spotlight.
"And yet Kliff Kingsbury never takes the field to block or tackle. But he's the head of the organization. He's the face of the football team. And for that reason, I tried to put it in perspective for the faculty that felt like Dr. Zheng was being treated unfairly," Dunn said.
"We feel like he almost serves as a punching bag," Shu said. "You hit him, he doesn't respond. You continue to hit him, hit him. And at that point, we feel like as a community and as an association, we probably need to say something."
Zheng released a statement that he did not have any part in organizing or encouraging the letter distributed by the association.
"I'm going to take Gary at his word, and assume that this is just an organization at Tech that is way off the mark. And really, quite frankly, needs to stay out of this. And let us do our jobs and solve these issues facing the city," Robertson said.
The association demands that Mayor Robertson publicly acknowledges that Zheng was cleared, and should apologize to him, his family, and the Chinese American community Lubbock.
We have attached the full letter from Chinese Faculty and Staff Association, as well as the full response from Charles Dunn to this story.