His boss, who is gay and black, has no qualms
Ten months ago, the self-proclaimed national director of Aryan Nations, a virulently racist and anti-Semitic group, announced plans to move its headquarters to Kansas City, Kan.
The resulting community outcry led the director, Charles J. Juba, to quit the group, which proclaims that Jews are “the children of Satan” and blacks are “beasts of the field.” His supposed successor then announced the Aryan Nations would move to Sebring, Fla.
Juba, however, stayed in town, taking a job with a 63-year-old Kansas City die cutting business. In short order he became the plant manager of the business, Gasket Engineering Co.
That might not be particularly noteworthy — except that more than 80 percent of the plant’s 87 employees are black. And Juba’s immediate supervisor, besides being black, is gay.
Juba was hired as a temp at the company around the same time that the controversy over his plans to move the Aryan Nations here was trumpeted on the front page of The Kansas City Star and local television stations.
Gasket Engineering’s owners say they didn’t know anything about the brouhaha until plant employees learned of it on the Internet a few weeks later. At that point, they said, they left it up to his supervisor, Earnest Jackson, to determine what to do about it. And because Jackson regarded Juba as an exemplary employee, they said, they decided to keep him on the payroll.
“Our sense at the time was, ‘Ernie if you’re comfortable with him, we’ll support you and, if not, we’ll get rid of him,’” one of the owners, David McLerran, said in a recent interview at the plant. “Ernie just raves about him.”
Some of the plant’s employees are raving, too, but not in the same sense. They’re incensed that Juba, who didn’t appear to have any managerial experience, was hired in the first place and then quickly promoted to plant manager.
None of them was able to point to any racist conduct by Juba at work. But many said that Juba’s mere presence was an affront to their sensibilities.
“People complained to Ernie,” said Del Chaun, a press machine operator who has worked at Gasket Engineering for five years. “I knew what was on the Internet. Ernie asked me if he did anything to me. He said Juba had brought all that stuff to his attention when they hired him. He said they looked at his Web site and came to the conclusion that he wanted to change.”
Juba, however, apparently continues to spout many of his old beliefs. In a brief interview in Jackson’s office at the plant, Juba called Jews the “spawn of Satan” and said he didn’t believe the races should mix.
“My opinions are my own,” he said. “I think I’m entitled to them. I never let them affect my work in the past, and I won’t now.”
Juba, 34, came to Kansas City from Leola, Pa., about a year ago. Shortly before his arrival here, he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Pennsylvania, listing $710 in assets and $88,015 in liabilities. Most of the liabilities consisted of money he owed on a repossessed 1997 Ford F-150 pickup and a repossessed motor home.
In his bankruptcy filing, Juba said he had performed maintenance at a company called Maxima Technologies & Systems Inc. in Lancaster, Pa. The filing said he had earned $1,064 from Maxima Technologies in 2004 and $3,080 in 2003.
Maxima’s president, Oddie Leopano, said he was unaware of Juba and his background.
“Obviously, we don’t condone that here,” he said.
Jackson, whose title at Gasket Engineering is director of manufacturing and scheduling, said he made Juba plant manager only after Juba had proved his abilities as a temp.
“I rely on him a lot, and he’s done a lot of great things for us,” he said.
Jackson said he had been looking for a plant manager and promoted Juba to that position in April — just a few weeks after the controversy over Juba and the Aryan Nations’ planned move to Kansas City was widely reported.
Jackson said he hadn’t been aware of the controversy until employees called it to his attention.
“I had a conversation with Charles about it,” he said. “His past is his past. He was hired to do a job at Gasket Engineering, and he’s done it. He hasn’t brought his past here, and it’s totally irrelevant. As long as he did the job here, that’s all I needed.”
Jackson said neither his race nor his sexual orientation had been an issue with Juba.
“If he hated black people so much, could he possibly work with this many black people and with me as his boss?” he asked.
For his part, Juba said he and Jackson had “an excellent working relationship and we actually get along on a personal level.”
Juba said he was no longer affiliated with Aryan Nations. But when asked if he still subscribed to the group’s beliefs, he said, “I have beliefs that are my own that some might not agree with.”
Juba at one time operated a Web site called gasthejewsforjesus.com. While saying he hadn’t been involved with the site for more than five years, he also said he continued to believe that Jews were “the seed of the devil.”
“My religion basically states that I’m to be proud of myself and to protect myself,” he said, “and that’s what I would stress.”
McLerran, who co-owns Gasket Engineering with his brother and another individual, said that if Juba “still professes to kill or eliminate Jewish people, I’d have some real concern about that. But part of me says, ‘How do you change someone’s beliefs like that?’ This may be the best place to do that.”
“As my Christian faith believes,” McLerran added, “it’s my hope that we can have a Saul-to-Paul conversion and that all Sauls will become Pauls.”