Minority business owners suing Sea-Tac Airport for racial discrimination uncovered emails they say support their claim. The emails were written in 2011 and found during discovery in the discrimination case filed by the owners of Africa Lounge and Manchu Wok.
The suit claims the minority businesses have to pay more for their leases and are given less desirable locations at the airport.
The emails were written by Port of Seattle employees Deanna Zachrisson and Elaine Lincoln. The Port of Seattle says both women were put on paid administrative leave Monday.
In one email Zachrisson described the man she sat next to as "Gum chewing Rod....thug." Rod O'Neal is the co-owner of Africa Lounge, one of two businesses suing the Port of Seattle for racial discrimination and retaliation.
Eddie Rye represents the Washington Coalition on Civil Rights and is asking for a federal investigation by the Department of Justice. He said he's appalled Zachrisson, who oversees food and retail at the airport, would insult a minority business owner.
"This guy did two tours of duty in Iraq for Desert Storm as a military officer and former law enforcement officer in Nevada," said Rye.
He said the emails show a racist culture at the Port of Seattle.
"We want the laws enforced," Rye said. "We want the people who committed these racist acts to be terminated immediately and we want any plan they have to be scrapped and put on hold."
The emails also mentioned Port Commissioner John Creighton. In one, Zachrisson appears to refer to him as a puppet; Lincoln allegedly called him an idiot.
Creighton wrote about the inappropriate and insulting emails on Twitter.
"If there is anyone at the @PortofSeattle who feels promoting diversity is hogwash or complying (with) civil rights laws is burdensome, they have no place at the port & should find new work."
Port of Seattle CEO Ted Fick wrote in a statement, "I am committed to ensuring the Port of Seattle handles this serious matter with transparency and accountability."