Whistleblower records boss accused of racist remarks
A former employee of a property management company said he was instructed to discriminate against African-Americans, which convinced him to start recording phone conversations with his boss.
Jason Hick blew the whistle on Abbeyhill Realty and Management, LLC and owner Aram Gosdanian in what has unfolded into several cases before the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. Additionally, the Ohio Attorney General is taking on discrimination cases concerning Gosdanian.
Hick said he was not allowed to rent to or hire African-Americans, a claim Gosdanian denies, according to his attorney.
"The reason I decided to start recording is I didn't think anybody would believe me," Hick said. "It wasn't a fluke. It wasn't a one-time thing that was said."
Phone conversations now serve as key evidence and played a role in the Ohio Civil Rights Commission determining probable cause in both employee and housing discrimination cases.
"From the beginning, I knew exactly what I had to do, because I just couldn't do the things I was being instructed to do," Hick said.
He helped maintain and get tenants for dozens of properties. However, Hick explained offhanded comments by Gosdanian became more concerning.
"I need white tenants. That is my absolute stipulation," Gosdanian said in the recordings. "We are a racist company. That's going to be my logo."
ABC 6 On Your Side Investigates tried to speak with Gosdanian several weeks ago, but he never came out of his office or returned our phone calls. He referred us by email to his lawyer. His attorney said "no thank you" to an interview request.
In case paperwork, Gosdanian's lawyer explained "words are words" and "his actions as a while do not show discrimination."
Hick said he would change application names and meet with African-American tenants at night just to get them a place to stay.
"This was something that goes deep to my core," Hick said. "I'm certainly not going to standby or be a part of doing some of the things described in the tape."
Hick was fired from his position at Abbeyhill and with his lawyer plan to sue for wrongful termination.
"I'm going to start on a campaign of getting rid of every black tenant out there, every single one," heard in one of the phone conversations.
Gosdanian, through his lawyer, maintains the recordings were taken out of context and according to paperwork Hick was let go for poor work performance.