While the headlines in Delaware County are focused on the sudden firing of Lauren Footman as its first Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) director, the question county officials have repeatedly declined to answer is why they hired her in the first place.

In the months before Footman’s firing, county officials repeatedly declined to answer DVJournal’s questions about how much the county was spending on its DEI initiatives. Nor would they provide any evidence that county government was suffering from a lack of workforce diversity or inclusion.

Instead, the available public data appears to show Delaware County’s government workforce reflects the racial and gender make up of the county’s population. Why, then, is the county spending tax dollars on DEI, and what is the problem they are trying to solve?

What Delaware County taxpayers do know is that after just 20 months in her $125,000 a year job as DEI director, the 32-year-old Footman has been fired. According to reporting by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Footman got the boot after filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last November alleging unfair treatment of Black female employees by Chief Administrative Officer Marc Woolley.

Woolley is Black.

Shortly after Footman’s hiring in 2022, the county announced a series of DEI initiatives. They included a $450,000 taxpayer-funded “micro-grant” program meant to build parks, community gardens, and bike facilities. The council agreed to a more diverse public works contracting program.

Footman gave a DEI impact report in late 2022 that featured lofty promises of “equal access to opportunity” but no concrete details. The county spent at least $1,700 so five directors could obtain a DEI certificate through Delaware County Community College. A contractor was also paid for department logos.

The county also paid a Georgia-based consulting firm to look for evidence that minority and women-owned businesses faced barriers when bidding for public works contracts. Those results are expected to be released next month. The county’s website has no details on how much the consulting firm will be paid.

And soon after Footman’s hiring, DVJournal began requesting information about the county’s data related to DEI spending.

A Delaware County spokesperson said they were “working on this request” when asked for comment by DVJournal. No other response was given.

Delco has also refused to reveal information on its DEI practices including hiring numbers, targeted numbers, and salary information. A request made under Pennsylvania’s Right To Know law was denied in February with the county claiming that it had “no records that are responsive to your quest.”

An appeal with the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records is pending.

Footman’s work relationship with Woolley soured last year, The Inquirer reported.

She accused Woolley of racial discrimination, suggesting that he treated White female workers better than Black ones. It included a claim that he scheduled a special meeting with the County Council for a top county official because she was “an attractive White woman.”

She also accused him of deriding her for suggesting that gender-neutral bathrooms, a top issue for DEI advocates, were needed for county employees.

An internal investigation by Delco cleared Woolley of wrongdoing.

Footman went on leave last November due to a hostile work environment and increased anxiety and depression. During that time, she filed a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint.

She was fired upon her return to the office in January. Footman claimed to have rejected a settlement offer because it required her to drop her federal complaint.

“It’s ironic that the person they hired to bring these [DEI] principles forward has brought a suit alleging racial discrimination,” former county council member Michael Puppio Jr. quipped to DVJournal. “That’s clearly ironic.”

Puppio served on the council from 2004 through 2008 and is now Springfield Republican Party chairman. He said council members believed firing Footman “was something that they needed to do.”

And, he added, progressive DEI activists owe it to voters to clarify what they are attempting to do.

“To me, it is a broader conversation about what do the words [DEI] mean and what are the goals that are trying to be achieved? Before you put a DEI policy in place, what is it that you’re looking for and how is it that you attempt to achieve that? What is the goal?” he said.

And, Delaware County taxpayers are still left to wonder, how much does it cost?