West Orange, NJ – A health insurance executive who posted a racially-charged, anti-police comment on her Facebook page is being backed by the company she works for.
Michellene Davis, executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer for RWJBarnabas Health, made her comments on a newspaper article about plans to put armed police officers at Fair Lawn schools, NJ Advance Media reported.
“Who is going to train them not to shoot black children first?!?” she asked in her post.
No black children have been fatally shot by police in the past four years since 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot while holding a replica gun.
Nine white and Hispanic juveniles were fatally shot by police in that same time period, according to The Washington Post.
Davis later deleted her comment and claimed that her Facebook page had been hacked, according to the Rutherford Daily Voice.
She deleted that post shortly after it went up.
On the morning of Oct. 4, Davis posted an apology to her Facebook page.
“I want to publicly apologize for an extremely insensitive and offensive comment posted on Facebook,” she wrote. “My concern for the safety of schoolchildren and gun violence led me to react to a headline without thinking. Having a late sister and other family in law enforcement I deeply respect the law enforcement community and appreciate their service and admire their sacrifice.”
She later took down her Facebook page entirely.
Initially, her employer placed the highly-paid executive on leave while they investigated the incident, NJ Advance Media reported.
The company was quick to issue a statement on its Facebook page disassociating itself from the comments made by Davis.
“Statements posted by RWJBarnabas Health official social media pages are the only statements that represent the views and policies of our organization,” it said.
Later, RWJBarnabas President and Chief Executive Officer Barry Ostrowsky released a statement about how the publicly-traded company had decided to handle the controversy.
“During the past few days, our organization has found itself at the center of a controversy – one that has caused an understandable and impassioned reaction from many members of our diverse communities,” Ostrowsky wrote. “Since last Wednesday, I have heard from many of you – employees, community leaders, members of law enforcement, physicians, educators, elected officials and citizens of New Jersey – expressing your thoughts around a statement made by one of our leaders…”
“While I do not plan to address the specifics around the actions of Ms. Davis in this communication, I will say that I do believe the apology for her initial statement to be sincere,” he continued. “It has never been a question that RWJBarnabas Health is indebted to the law enforcement community and those officers who work to make our communities safe each day.”
Ostrowsky said the company had no plans to remove the controversial executive from her position.
“As we have now concluded this internal review, I am confident that Ms. Davis remains the proper executive to lead the Social Impact and Community Investment practice for RWJBarnabas Health,” he wrote.
“For any meaningful change to occur around stemming the proliferation of violence in our community, all members of our community must be active and committed partners – parents, law enforcement, policy makers and health professionals included,” Ostrowsky wrote
Internal Revenue Service records showed that Davis earned a salary of $1,061,866 from RWJBarnabas in 2017, NJ Advance Media reported.
The Fair Lawn Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) Local 67 shared all of the social media posts made by Davis on their own Facebook page on Oct. 4.
PBA President Luis Vasquez called the health executive’s apology “a step in a positive direction.”
Davis was the state of New Jersey’s first African-American chief policy counsel under former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine. Prior to that, she served as acting state treasurer for a period of time, NJ Advance Media reported.
Her own website touted her as the youngest-ever CEO of the state’s lottery, and the “first woman and first person of any color to be named to the senior-most level of the State of New Jersey’s largest healthcare system.”