MIAMI, FL — Miami’s firefighters’ union late Tuesday decided to back the grievances of six fired members who were among a group charged with harassment of a fellow firefighter.
“The Executive Board’s meeting today reviewed the testimony and evidence related to the termination of the six Miami Firefighter’s for the drawings on a co-worker’s family photographs,” the union said in a statement. “After long, arduous deliberation, and after consultation with our legal counsel, the Executive Board has taken the position of allowing the terminated individuals their due process.”
The men were disciplined after a noose was found hanging over a black firefighter’s family photo, which was also covered in lewd drawings.
The Miami-Dade Branch of the NAACP said it was “extremely disappointed” by the union’s decision.
“We know it is not over. We hoped the union would not stand in support of this behavior,” Brad Brown, vice president of the branch, said in a statement.
Lt. Robert Webster, who was the target of the harassment, attended the hearings.
“It’s been a resounding amount of support from the community. People coming up to the station just wanting to meet and apologize for what these guys have done. At the same time, these individuals have not even apologized for what they’ve done,” he said.
The incident occurred at Miami Fire Station 12 located at 1455 Northwest 46th Street. City manager Daniel Alfonso said he and the fire department’s chief, Joseph Zahralban, found out on September 10th about an incident “involving sexually explicit and racially offensive conduct” and transferred employees to other stations.
“The victim’s not just myself and my family, it’s the people in the community who look like me and my family because this is what they feel about me, who wears the same uniform that they wear,” Webster said. “How do they truly feel about these people whose homes they’re welcomed into at the time when they’re most needing someone to care for them?”
After the police department began an internal investigation, 11 firefighters were suspended without pay. Of the six firefighters who were fired, two were supervisors who lied to investigators, according to the dismissal letters. One of them is accused of encouraging and helping subordinates draw lewd pictures on the photos.
“What happened is difficult to digest,” former Mayor Tomas Regalado said November 3rd when announcing the punishments. “The city of Miami is one of the most diverse cities in the United States. Everyone looks different, but we all live, work and play together.”
“In the Miami Fire Department, we hold honor, integrity and respect for our fellow firefighters in the highest regard,” Zahralban said. “If you do not believe in this philosophy, I promise you will struggle in our organization.”
The Miami chapter of the NAACP previously sent a letter to the union’s board asking them to agree with the punishments handed down in the case.
All six members filed grievances within days of being terminated. The union’s executive board met to determine whether the discipline given to each firefighter was just or excessive in determining whether to fight the decision.
From NBC Miami