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‘I was stunned’: Man recalls comments that led to CEO’s resignation

CHICAGO — After he was accused of making racist comments earlier this summer, the president and CEO of the Illinois Primary Health Care Association (IPHCA) resigned.

Now, some Latino lawmakers say there's still work to be done.

"I've never experienced that in my professional career — to have someone talk to me the way he did," said Raul Garza, CEO of Aunt Martha’s, an organization that provides foster care and health care services to people across Illinois.

Garza is referencing Bruce Johnson, a man Garza claims made racially insensitive comments during a June meeting. Johnson, who has since resigned as president and CEO of the Illinois Primary Health Care Association, could not be reached for comment.

"Just out of nowhere he began making the comments he made" Garza said. "The first comment he made — I was stunned by — was, 'Does Trump let you back in the country when you go to Mexico?'"

Garza said Johnson then asked him whether he bring relatives back with him when he travels to Mexico, and whether he lives in Little Village.

"He chuckled," Garza recalled. "I said, 'Do you think every Mexican American in Chicago lives in Little Village?,' and he just laughed."

After that meeting, Garza, along with his attorney, filed a complaint with the executive committee of the Illinois Primary Health Care Association. The men never heard back. So they sent a letter to every member of the association. Within 48 hours, Johnson and the 6-person executive committee had stepped down.

"We believe there is a culture there that was allowed to persist," attorney Humero Tristan said, "and it's important for us to begin to look at other layers here. Who knows what other conduct was permitted."

Jordan Powell, the association's interim CEO, said in a statement: "We cannot move forward without denouncing the previous comments by our former CEO.  We are truly sorry for the inappropriate comments made to one of our members, Mr. Raul Garza, and his staff. We are also sorry for the divisiveness those actions caused.  These actions are not indicative of our members or the organization as a whole.”