John Vandermolen, President of Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, and Branch Manager of PNC Bank allegedly discriminates against African-American Customers

 

 

Mugshot from 2010 DUI Arrest.

On August 18, 2019, Tatiana Marche Denson, of Tampa, Florida, filed a federal lawsuit in the US District Court for Middle District of Florida, against, PNC Bank, N.A., alleging that they violated Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, when, John Mark Vandermolen, an Tampa Branch Manager, allegedly discriminated against her when she tried to open a business account.

It is alleged that on August 29, 2018, Ms. Denson met with Mr. Vandermolen at the PNC Fowler Avenue location, in Tampa. When Mr. Vandermolen saw Ms. Denson, he allegedly gave her a suggestive look, and was “cold, rude and demeaning” toward her, which her complaint states was because of her race, African-American. Ms. Denson allegedly provided Mr. Vandermolen two forms of identification, tax id paperwork and her Articles of Organization, which was drafted by her attorneys and filed with the State of Florida.

Not happy with the documentation provided, Mr. Vandermolen, allegedly began questioning why the IRS would give her a letter, and why was her business setup in a particular way. The complaint goes on to allege that Mr. Vandermolen allegedly criticized her business name, business goals, and how she intended to operate her business. Mr. Vandermolen allegedly demanded to know the types of artist Ms. Denson intended to represent. He did so, allegedly, in a demanding and condescending manner, because of Ms. Denson’s race.

Sometime during the forty-five-minute exchange, Ms. Denson requested to speak with someone else. Mr. Vandermolen refused, and instructed Ms. Denson to leave his office. As Ms. Denson tried to record the interaction, Mr. Vandermolen got up from his seat, took a defensive posture, and attempted to grab Ms. Denson’s phone. Mr. Vandermolen instructed his staff to contact the police, because Ms. Denson was getting “Loud and Violent”. After the Police Officer arrived, they determined that there was no disturbance as alleged by Mr. Vandermolen.

On November 18, 2019, Joshua Prever, of Holland & Knight, LLP, filed an Answer to the Complaint, where PNC categorically deny the allegations espoused by Ms. Denson. Additionally, PNC argues that the video and audio evidence refutes Ms. Denson’s “self-serving” complaint.  Interestingly, PNC admits to the exchange with Ms. Denson with regard to Mr. Vandermolen’s cross-examination of Ms. Denson with regard to her business dealings. PNC has argued in its pleadings, that Mr. Vandermolen was justified in his questioning of Ms. Denson, because he has a duty to comply with “Know Your Customer” regulations.

Ms. Denson’s complaint requests unspecified damages. She is represented by Yechezkel Rodal.

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