Officials are conducting an investigation after county employee Tariq Falfal accused Goleta Councilmember Roger Aceves of calling him a “turban head.”
Falfal claims that, following a dispute in a county parking lot on April 15 between himself and Aceves, the councilmember entered an elevator with an anonymous female county employee, Santa Maria Mayor Larry Lavagnino and First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal. In the elevator, Aceves recounted the incident in the parking lot and, according to the anonymous woman, referred to Falfal as a “turban head.”
The employee reported the incident to Falfal shortly after.
As of press time, neither Aceves nor Lavagnino were available for comment.
However, Falfal said Aceves is denying claims that he used the racial slur.
“He is basically denying he ever said that,” Falfal said. “He is trying to say that he referred to me as the guy who wears a turban. I am half Libyan; I do not even wear a turban.”
According to Falfal, the dispute began when he asked Aceves to move his vehicle out of a reserved faculty spot after another parking employee had made the same request. Falfal said Aceves did not express hostility during the confrontation.
“He was here at the county building at the same time I was working,” Falfal said. “All I said was, ‘Have a nice day,’ and walked away. There was never any shouting or anything between us.”
Falfal said he contacted the city of Goleta’s Human Resources Department to file a complaint and was told there was nothing they could do about the incident.
“The city of Goleta told me that there was nothing they could do about it because they have no racial discrimination policy,” Falfal said. “They called me back and said there was nothing they could do.”
When questioned about Falfal’s claim, Goleta City Attorney Tim Giles said the city did receive the complaint for review.
“I can confirm that we reviewed a complaint,” Giles said. “I can not give out any information at this time because it has to remain confidential.”
Carbajal also said that he could not go into detail about the allegations, but noted that the county does not take any reports involving racial discrimination lightly.
“The county takes very serious all allegations of all discrimination and investigates and reviews all the facts of this matter.” Carbajal said.