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a367: Haitian-Americans protest bank firing

From: JD Lemieux <lxhaiti@yahoo.com>

Miami Herald

Published Friday, January 11, 2002

Haitian-Americans protest bank firing

A group of Haitian-American business leaders on
Thursday demanded that Bank of America reinstate a
senior manager fired last month in a wave of cutbacks.

The group of 26 Haitian business owners and
professionals, including some of the top political
leaders in the community, also say Bank of America
needs to be a better corporate citizen by making more
home and business loans in their community. They met
with Bank of America senior vice president Jennifer
Johnson for an hour Thursday and intend to send a
letter to top bank executives.

``We want to know what they are doing for Haitian
businesses,'' said Ringo Cayard of the Haitian
American Foundation, 5080 Biscayne Blvd., where the
meeting was held.

Johnson, who is in charge of 34 banks in North
Miami-Dade County, was the immediate supervisor of
Eustache Fleurant, a senior manager fired Dec. 12
after nearly 20 years of service. Fleurant also was
the bank's highest-ranking Haitian-American employee,
the group said.

Neither Johnson nor the bank's spokeswoman would
discuss why Fleurant was fired, citing privacy laws.
However, Johnson did say that following the Sept. 11
attacks, Bank of America looked at its 2002 forecast,
and ``decisions were made at the corporate level that
we had to implement some expense-control, cost-cutting

Christina Beyer, a spokeswoman for the bank, said she
doesn't have any data on the number of employees who
lost jobs during the cuts.

``The cutbacks were across the board in all areas --
travel, some staff, depending on the line of
business,'' she said.

But to fire the only high-ranking Haitian banking
official shows a disregard for a community that does
hundreds of thousands of dollars in business with the
bank, the group said.

```You've got to be sensitive to a community,'' said
Stanley Alexis, executive director of the Roots and
Culture Foundation, a community group that sponsors
local festivals.

Fleurant did not attend the meeting, but in a letter
chronicling his achievements, he noted he was promoted
four times in four years and managed the Bay Point
Banking Center, at 5000 Biscayne Blvd., and the Little
River branch, 7900 NE Second Ave.

``It is worth noting that up to the point of my
termination, there is no written employee conference
surrounding poor performance nor disciplinary action
in my personnel file as required by Bank of America
polices and procedures,'' he wrote.

Fleurant's phone number is unlisted and he could not
be reached Thursday.

Among those in attendance Thursday were North Miami
Mayor Josaphat ``Joe'' Celestin, Haitian Consul
General Guy Victor, Haitian Women of Miami Executive
Director Marleine Bastien and funeral home owner Fred
St. Amand. Most members of the group hold personal and
business accounts with the bank.

``Eustache brought business to Bank of America, and
because of that Bank of America is cashing in big,''
said Ronald Colas of PHS Engineering Corp.

Colas and others said it was because of Fleurant that
many of them continued to bank with Bank of America
after the 1997 merger between Barnett Banks and

``I have been with them for 15 years,'' Amand said.
``I had to raise hell just to get a loan from them.''

Amand, the group's spokesman, said the community will
no longer tolerate a deposit-only relationship with
the bank.

Beyer said the bank has participated on many levels
with diverse communities, including through its
Community Development Bank. These include contributing
to the Little Haiti Community Development Corp. for
many years; being the key developer for Town Park, an
85-unit affordable housing project in Overtown; and
providing financing commitments for the purchase and
renovation at Sabal Palms, a 500-unit multifamily
rental community in Little Haiti.

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