Mercer Security officer Kevin Larkin Jr., son of Mercer County Sheriff Kevin Larkin, is no longer employed at Mercer. The personnel action followed two incident reports filed by LGBTF members against Larkin Jr.
Although there has been no official confirmation from administration that the complaints were the specific reason that Larkin Jr.’s employment was terminated, the Voice can confirm that on March 23 Jose Fernandez, Executive Director of Compliance and Human Resources, did inform one of the students who filed a grievanced, Joseph “Bobo” Burke, that “action was taken” against Larkin Jr.
The complaints were officially filed on March 11 by Burke, a transgendered student, and Fantasia Hoagland, a bisexual student.
The first incident occurred in early February when Burke, who is afraid of dogs, asked aloud why an unattended service animal was roaming the hallways. According to Burke, Larkin responded by saying “[the dog] serves way more purpose than you in this school anyway.”
Instead of arguing with Larkin Jr., Burke says that with the help of Hoagland and another friend, Alexis Baker, he was persuaded to file a complaint with Mercer Security. “Bobo was going to go off [on Larkin], but he didn’t,” says Hoagland.
Burke reports that the comment made him question his value at the school. “[I thought] Damn, am I really supposed to be in school? Do I really serve a purpose? It had me thinking…I’m only human, I only can take so much. Words do hurt, even when it’s coming from someone I don’t know,” says Burke.
Yet Burke did not file a formal complaint until March. “I waited because I felt nobody was going to do anything,” says Burke. He says what finally prompted him to respond was a second incident, which occurred on March 10. In that incident Larkin Jr. told Hoagland he would give her “a $100 ticket” for parking beside a curb in the West Lot 2, although such an infraction would usually result in a $25 ticket according to Security Officer John Wambach. Hoagland goes on to say that besides telling her he would ticket her Larkin also asked her why she couldn’t park “like everyone else.” Hoagland alleges that Larkin’s tone was demeaning and appeared to be related to her perceived sexual orientation.
“I was mad. It’s just the way he said it,” says Hoagland in explaining why she filed a complained.
Burke says he had overheard Larkin Jr. belittling other students, including Hoagland.
“I’m hearing too much stuff about him, I’m hearing too much that’s going on. And ain’t nobody saying anything,” said Burke. He added, “Fantasia’s like my little sister, and when she started telling me about her story it upset me. This is us going at this thing again. And he’s not gonna talk to her like that. I had to do what I had to do.”
Burke goes on to say “I have a real thing with authority, but I tried to handle it the adult way.”
Bryon Marshall, Director of College Safety, indicated that, in this case, the incident reporting mechanism functioned as it was designed to.
“The people actually produced themselves…right to Chief [John] Raimondi…I said, ‘Chief, just investigate it.” He did. He took the information down. We investigated it. We back checked it.”
Marshall adds, “We’ve fully investigated [the incident], turned the matter over to HR, and there was action taken against that employee.”
Initially Burke said he expected that Raimondi would ignore Larkin’s comments. However, according to Burke security was respectful and accommodating in taking the complaint.
“When I first was going in…I felt like [Raimondi] was just going to say, ‘I’ll handle the situation,’ but nothing would be done…but when I get in there…[Raimondi] gave me the information, gave me the incident report, twice actually, and then he gave me a copy of what I wrote down. I really was appreciative of that,” Burke said.
Francesca Scirocco, LGBTF President, said, “I think these guards need better training. I guess kudos to the school for handling it, but shame on them for not training them properly…”
As employee personnel files are confidential, the Voice cannot confirm if other incidents may have contributed to Larkin Jr.’s termination.