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Lawsuit filed against bureau once headed by Cordray day after Dayton debate

In a move which could impact the governor’s race between Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray, two employees of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have charged they were discriminated against by officials of the bureau once headed by Cordray.

The lawsuit charges that the consumer bureau “maintains a biased culture replete with harmful stereotypes regarding its racial minority and female employees that infect its policies and decision-making, including performance evaluations, compensation, and promotions.”

Watch: Cordray, DeWine trade fiery jabs in first debate in Dayton

Although the lawsuit was filed last week in federal court in Washington, it became public Thursday when DeWine’s gubernatorial campaign advised reporters about the suit.

The DeWine campaign insisted it did not coordinate the lawsuit with the two employees or the Chicago attorney who filed the claim.

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But in Wednesday’s gubernatorial debate in Dayton, DeWine charged that Cordray as director of the bureau “had a culture, a culture of discrimination and you did absolutely nothing about it.”

“We found out about this lawsuit this morning via Google alert,” said Joshua Eck, a DeWine spokesman. “This is something our campaign has been talking about since August. It’s absolutely ridiculous to say that this was coordinated in any way.”

Earlier this month, DeWine’s campaign aired a 30-second TV commercial asserting the same charges.

Christina Freundlich, a Cordray spokeswoman, said Cordray “knows that racism and discrimination have no place in any part of our society — particularly in the workplace.”

She said as director of the bureau, Cordray “worked hard to build a more inclusive and diverse workplace, launching initiatives to ensure women and minorities receive fair treatment and fundamentally reforming the management practices of the bureau. Civil rights leaders stood by Director Cordray then, and they stand by him now.”

Congressional Republicans have long pushed the idea that Cordray presided over a toxic work environment at the consumer protection bureau from 2012 through the end of last year.

After a House hearing in 2014, Cordray said he took “seriously the concerns raised” at the hearing and added he “deeply” apologized “to any member of the CFPB staff who feels that they have not been heard or treated fairly. I welcome the opportunity to appear before Congress to discuss these issues fully.”

A 2016 report by the Government Accountability Office concluded that “as part of ongoing improvement efforts and in response to challenges it identified in late 2013 and early 2014, CFPB has worked to strengthen personnel management practices and enhance its diversity and inclusion efforts.”

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