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A man has got to know his limitations. I know my limitations. I never should have been in Niggerville working for those people.

Saint Louis Save-A-Lot Manager, and Marine, IL mayor John Deepe

Recently I discovered that discount supermarket chain Save-A-Lot finds itself embroiled in a racist controversy stemming from an accidentally recorded voice mail. In mid-October John Deppe, who managed a store located at 91 North Oaks Plaza in Saint Louis, MO., called an employee's cell phone to ask about the upcoming schedule. The employee didn't take the call because he was away from his cell. Deppe ended the call, thinking he had also hung up the phone, but he hadn't. The employee's voice mail picked up Deppe's shocking, subsequent conversation with an unidentified female. Deppe, who is also the mayor of Marine, IL., can be heard comparing himself to Clint Eastwood's character, Dirty Harry, in the film Magnum Force: "What does Clint Eastwood say?", Deppe asked, "A man has got to know his limitations. I know my limitations. I never should have been in Niggerville working for those people," the small town mayor uttered. He went onto attack his black underlings further, accusing them of never having reliable transportation and being repeatedly late for work.

Deppe was terminated by the St. Louis based company within a few days, but sources have disclosed that Save-A-Lot higher ups were made aware of Deppe's questionable behavior before the infamous voice mail. Employees describe an uncomfortable, harassing and racist work environment presided over by Deppe. They have accused their former boss of denying transfers and pay raises, because of his now opened racism, and of referring to customers in the predominately low-income black neighborhood where the store is located, as "those people." They claim Deppe also brought them fried chicken and said "I'm sure you people would like this" and then laughed as he walked away. The chicken incident is notable because an employee reported the behavior to district manager Steve Miller. Miller apparently spoke with Deppe, what was said is not known, but Deppe then punished the the whistle-blower by forcing him to work on a previously scheduled weekend off. Deppe, according to the employee, also added additional days to the employee's schedule. "I felt I was being punished and talking to Steve was like talking to John," said the employee who asked to remain anonymous and fears reprisals from Save-A-Lot. The same employee also feels as if he is being punished now since he was the one who had the courage to report Deppe's "niggerville" comment. Since October the employee has been transferred to two different stores, one in St. Charles, a far flung exurb, and then to another store in midtown St. Louis. "I can't help but think this is a punishment or intimidation", he said. "I asked why I was being transferred and they said 'This is a better fit for you," he recounted.

Following the October incident Save-A-Lot did send company executives Jim Schwab and Jane Gaitsch to address the situation. But employees took the meetings as acts of intimidation. "We feel as if they came to silence us," said another employee who also requested anonymity. One of the executives allegedly told the employees, in an audio recorded by the employee on the phone, that "This isn't going any further." The employees saw the remark as a threat.

Reached for comment, a Save-A-Lot spokesperson said, "Deppe didn't reflect our values. And we have zero tolerance for this sort of behavior. When it was brought to our attention, he was fired while he was on vacation." Deppe could not be reached for comment.

The Deppe affair isn't the only black eye to hit the SuperValu subsidiary lately. Allegations of racist management and harassment have arisen at a Save-A-Lot store in Augusta, GA. and last week a Jackson, MS. Save-A-Lot store settled a sexual harassment suit for $325,000.

Employees at the St. Louis store say they are in the process of determining the appropriate next steps.

Contact Save-A-Lot by emailing chon.c.tomlin@save-a-lot.com.

Reporter: Bringing Light to Injustice

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