A Hangman's Noose/ a Noose left for a San Carlos Postal Employee

root - Posted on 25 May 2001

The Postmaster of San Carlos Fashioned a Noose for an African-American Postal Service Employee which was discovered by her on Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday

by Kaponda

Since August of 1988, Denise McCollum had dutifully navigated the 18-mile commute along the peninsula from her home in the Western Addition of San Francisco, to her place of employment in San Carlos City in San Mateo County. Her travels were sidetracked, however, on a Holiday of profound remembrance for African Americans and of great historic significance to all Americans.

McCollum was asked by her supervisor, Nancy Bailey, to work on the federal Holiday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Post Office in San Carlos, where she had functioned as a window/distribution clerk for more than a decade. During the waning hours of her shift on that January 15, 2000, McCollum carried out, in prescribed manner, her routine duty of checking for “leave slips.” She checked the box that she had designated and designed for employees of the San Carlos Post Office branch to deposit their paperwork for processing.

A pall of anxiety had overtaken the magnanimous spirit of McCollum as translucent moisture from her heated eyes revealed her reaction to the hangman’s noose that she encountered while looking into the leave box. After the single parent and grandmother had composed herself, she seized the veiled threat as evidence that a practice of ethnic intimidation, which had been vacated for more than 70 years, had been revived at her workplace on the Holiday of a distinguished civil rights leader.

Although the timing of the discovery of the nine-coil hangman’s noose by McCollum made it especially egregious, it was not an act conceived in a vacuum. The ominous signals of racial tension between colleagues and McCollum had been mounting over a period of time at the Post Office of mostly white employees in a city made up of over 22,000 whites and only 193 blacks. The memorandum posted in December, dated December 2, 1999, which stated, in part, “...material consisting of ethnic, racial, religious or sexual content are not suitable...,” was one visible signpost that the ugliest characteristics of humanity had been unleashed at the Post Office where McCollum was employed.

“I feel the Postmaster, Ezio Nurisio, my supervisor, Nancy Bailey, my co-workers, Eve Harmon and AnnMarie Bernal all played major roles that eventually led to my discovery of this symbol of hatred on that day at my job,” stated the gentlewoman as we discussed the chain of events that led to her current state of mind and the fears that have gripped the very soul of McCollum. “Ezio Nurisio, the postmaster, and Nancy Bailey have known each other since elementary school, and AnnMarie Bernal boasted to me about the dinner she and the postmaster shared at his house,” continued McCollum, as she had begun to recount a number of reason why she had clearly been made an outcast from the community at the Post Office.

I asked McCollum what reason she had to believe that a federal postmaster of the United States Post Office would be associated with an out-and-out atrocity like manufacturing a symbol used traditionally by hate groups as a means of ethnic intimidation?

“I think that this is the case because on January 18, 2000, I called the postmaster at his home to personally make him aware of my state of mind and what had happened. Later during the evening, I took the hangman’s noose to the San Carlos Police Department and made a formal complaint. I learned upon the completion of the investigation by the San Carlos police that it was the postmaster himself who created the noose,” stated McCollum.

I then asked McCollum, who was raised a Baptist in Kanas City, Kansas, who did the investigation by the San Carlos Police Department lay the blame on?

“According to the investigation” stated McCollum, “The official results of the investigation was that ‘the noose was meant as a joke between the postmaster, Ezio Nurisio, and Nancy Bailey,’” concluded McCollum.

The Post Office environment in which McCollum had worked had become festered with unvarnished hostilities, and the subsequent stress placed upon McCollum became unbearable, according to the peaceable McCollum, who described herself as a friendly person who used all her energy to maintain a “harmonious relationship” with each one of her co-workers. McCollum stated to the postmaster during their conversation that she had begun to fear for her life and asked for leave of duty. McCollum has not been back to work at the Post Office in San Carlos City for over one year.

Two days after McCollum talked with her postmaster and had learned that her postmaster fashioned the noose, Nuriso, the postmaster, wrote her a letter dated January 20, 2000, addressing her concerns of fear, although he did not admit in that letter that he was responsible for the outbreak of turmoil that had shattered relations at San Carlos Post Office. Also, on January 20, 2000, the same day of the letter by the postmaster, McCollum’s supervisor, Nancy Bailey, apologized to her for any misunderstanding that McCollum may have reached.

According to that same letter by Ezio Nurisio, dated January 20, 2000, addressed to Denise McCollum, Nurisio states that “...I conducted an investigation concerning your allegations that a hangman’s noose was purposely left on Supervisor Nancy Bailey’s desk as a direct attack to your person or ethnicity. The results of my investigation concluded that no such attack was intended or implied and that your safety at this office was never jeopardized or challenged....”

I attempted to contact the former postmaster and supervisor of Denise McCollum and to inquire how an objective and fair investigation could have been conducted by the very same person by whom the noose had been fashioned?

As I leaned next to the last of five windows for over 10 minutes waiting for Nancy Bailey to come out, I watched the three postal clerks as they provided service to customers with huge packages.

“Ezio Nurisio has been detailed to South San Francisco. He no longer works at this station any longer,” a woman in a black dress stated with a firm tone. As I asked Bailey which post office in South San Francisco he had been detailed, she stated that “The Postmaster is always at the main Post Office,” in a tone that seemed very hard on the ears. “Furthermore,” Bailey continued, “If you want any further information about the incident that occurred on January 15, 2000, you will have to talk with the Public Relations representative of the United States Post Office,” concluded Bailey.

The kind of hatred that existed at the workplace of McCollum is draped in centuries of bigotry and prejudice. It is not unique to any continent, country, race or ethnicity. I asked Reverend Shad Riddick of the Metropolitan Baptist Church, in whom Denise McCollum had confided when she had first experienced her ordeal, about his thoughts concerning the case of McCollum?

“I have noticed changes. One of the things I’ve noticed is that she has been sleeping more and more. Usually, when I call, if she was not in, then she would return my call right away. However, after the incident, she no longer returns my calls and daughter informs me that she always sleep. I am not a psychologist, but my opinion is that she is very, very depressed and afraid of something,” stated Rev. Riddick.

I asked Horace Hinshaw, the spokesperson for the Postal Service, if Ezio Nurisio had known that the hangman’s noose was a symbol used traditionally by hate groups, and did Ezio Nurisio believe that the fears expressed by Denise McCollum, after she discovered the noose, were real? Hinshaw responded that an administrative appeal by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is pending, and he, therefore, was not at liberty to discuss the matter of Denise McCollum.

Existing federal law protects people like Denise McCollum from workplace harassment and violent acts based on race, color, national origin or religion. Federal Civil Rights statute 18 U.S.C.A. section 245 has been instituted in the United States Congress to safeguard people like McCollum from vicious attacks by inconsiderate persons. The Department of Justice considers noose incidents to be federal crimes of intimidation, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation annually reports and collects statistics it gathers annually on the number of bias-related criminal incidents from law enforcement agencies. In 1996, based on reports from law enforcement agencies covering 84% of the nation’s population, the FBI reported 8,759 incidents based on the Hate Crime Statistics Act.


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