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Tempe company CEO suspended after allegedly saying racial slur to Uber driver

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    TEMPE, AZ (KTVK) — A CEO of a Valley fertilizer company has been relieved of his duties after he allegedly said a racial slur to his Uber driver, who is African American.

Tempe-based Agroplasma said in a statement that CEO Hans Berglund “has been relieved of his duties” while the company performs a full internal investigation. “The incident is not at all reflective of Agroplasma’s values and ethics. Our relationships with our employees, customers and the community are the cornerstones of our success,” said Agroplasma spokesman Matt Brill.

The incident happened on Jan. 31 in Tempe and was caught on Uber driver Randy Clarke’s camera. According to Clarke, Berglund called him a derogatory word and an “idiot” after he asked him to sit in the backseat of his car. In the video, Berglund asked Clarke if he was sitting in the back seat because “he was white.”

Uber has released the following statement:

“Discrimination has no place on the Uber app or anywhere. What’s been described is a clear violation of our Community Guidelines and we launched an investigation as soon as we learned of it.”

Brill said that the company is “doing everything in our power to rebuild their trust and repair the harm that has resulted from this incident.”

Berglund posted an apology online but Clarke said he has not heard the apology in person. Clarke and his lawyer held a news conference Wednesday in Tempe to discuss the incident.

Clarke responded with a statement of his own Wednesday:

“I do not accept Mr. Berglund’s digital apology. It is wrapped in insincerity and so is AgroPlasma’s statement on his alleged firing. Suspension and firing are two different things. I standby Rev. Maupin and the communities’ demand to meet. I also am consulting with my lawyer, David Dow, to determine my rights and next steps. We want justice and we want reconciliation. That begins with transparency and Mr. Berglund and his company sitting down to meet us.”

Clarke referred to community advocate, Rev. Jarrett Maupin, in his statement. Maupin, who is behind Clarke, said in a statement:

“We continue to demand a sit-down meeting worth Berglund and AgroPlasma. We demand it immediately. Until we have such a meeting we will continue to make sure nobody in local government does business with AgroPlasma and that their corporate partners know who they are and who they employ. In 2020, there is zero-tolerance for racism in corporate America and absolutely no excusing a CEO’s racist attack on a meek and humble, black, Uber driving student.”

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