‘It’s one against many’: Hillsborough NAACP president calls for Tampa veterans shelter CEO’s resignation after racial slur claims

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) The President of the Hillsborough County chapter of the NAACP has called for the resignation of the CEO of the Tampa area’s largest veteran’s homeless shelter following claims he made racial and homophobic slurs.

Tom Atchison said he will not resign his position, and denies he has ever used slurs of any kind.

“We’re going to be doing what we’ve been doing for 30 years,” Atchison said. “Which is helping the disenfranchised, the blacks, whites, the purples, the pinks, the gays, the transexuals. We are here to help them people.”

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But Hillsborough County NAACP President Yvette Lewis said the witnesses statements about the slurs are believable and should be investigated by the James Haley VA.

“As a leader that’s over this organization, I would have to call for him to resign. Step down,” Lewis said. “Accountability is the key.”

James Haley spokesman Roderick Cunningham said the VA looked into the alleged concerns from former employees about the slurs and shelter finances. But Cunningham said the agency did not conduct a formal investigation.

8 On Your Side asked multiple times why the claims were not investigated, but Cunningham would not discuss any specifics.

“We have no additional comment,” Cunningham said in an email.

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“That’s unacceptable,” Lewis said. “The federal government, the VA, needs to investigate this.”

Lewis pointed out while Atchison denies the allegations, there are several witnesses who claim otherwise.

“It’s one against many,” she said.

Atchison said he has nothing to hide and the VA has nothing to investigate.

“My congregation is over 50 percent black. My assistant pastor is black,” Atchison said. “My director of our mission is black. If I was a racist, we’d really be in trouble with all the black staff I have.”

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Lewis disagreed that the makeup of Atchison’s congregation and staff is an indicator of whether or not he made racist comments.

New Beginnings receives about $70,000 a month in taxpayer money from the VA to house homeless veterans. New referrals were halted after a turnover of staff last month involving 11 employees who said they were fired.

Atchison said he fired two of them and the rest left on their own after the group threatened to take over the program. He said he expects referrals to resume soom.

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