PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - A pregnant Petersburg mother says she went to apply for benefit assistance only to be harassed by a top official at the Petersburg Social Services Department.
Angela Thrower claims that official had alcohol on his breath and told her to get out, because she was charging her cell phone while attempting to get help.
“As he was talking, I smelled the liquor on his breath, and that’s when I immediately asked him, ‘please back up and give me my personal space’,” Thrower said.
The 26-year-old pregnant woman recently fell on tough times so she went to Petersburg’s Social Services Office to apply for benefits. While waiting, she says a top official approached her.
“He said ‘You can’t charge your phone here’ and I said ‘how come I can’t charge my phone here’,” she said.
Thrower says she needed the charge so she could reach her social worker about the benefits she was applying for.
“He said 'this isn’t a place for homeless people to charge their phones and stay warm’,” she said.
That’s when things escalated.
“He crouched down and said 'Do you know who the (expletive) I am’?” I said ‘excuse me’? He said ‘Do you know who I am? I can have any say so in what goes on in your case load and what can get done and what you can get help with’ … That’s when he said ‘I’m from Chi-town, and people like you get dealt with for disrespect’,” Thrower said.
She tried to take action on her own, first calling city leaders.
“As soon as I mentioned his name, she sat there and hurried to brush me off the phone and said ‘if I feel like it’s worth reaching out to you, I’ll reach out to you.”
Then she went to the magistrate’s office.
"They told me it’s nothing they can do, that it was a conflict of interest because he was a city official.”
So NBC12 stepped in.
"We will be reviewing video footage of the lobby area as part of our investigation,” said Darnetta Tyus, Deputy Manager for the City of Petersburg.
“Part of her complaint is that she smelled alcohol on his breath. Is that part of your investigation as well?” NBC12 asked.
“That was a part of the discussion we had with staff who had interaction with him on that day, yes," Tyus said.
NBC 12 spoke with other Social Services employees who worked that day as well as the contracted security guard on site who all say the top official went too far.
"When I was walking out he said 'Farmer Street, mmm hmmm. Remember what I said earlier. Farmer Street’. That’s the street I live on. So that’s the second direct threat that man made to me … I have an issue with reaching out and asking for help when I need it, and I actually swallowed my pride to come up here and ask for help and try to get some help and was treated like an animal and was turned away and was mistreated,” Thrower said.
City officials say they take allegations like these seriously and they’re willing to cooperate with state officials as they look into this matter as well.