Fire official admits to using racial slur
St. Petersburg Times...11/08/2002
After an investigation, Lt. Jeannine Horton is placed on leave and faces discipline ranging from a reprimand to termination, which the St. Petersburg NAACP calls for. LARGO - A Largo fire official has admitted making racially charged comments while on duty and faces possible termination for her actions, city officials said Thursday. Lt. Jeannine Horton, an 18-year veteran of the Largo Fire Department, was placed on paid administrative leave Thursday after an internal investigation found that she had made several insensitive comments that included telling her subordinates: "I hate n------."
Division Chief Michael Wallace said a firefighter in the room had filed a complaint last week, and Horton signed a statement this week admitting that she had made those comments. Horton could not be reached for comment Thursday. She declined to comment Wednesday when a reporter went to see her. Wallace said the investigation had determined that Horton walked into a room during a September shift and joined a conversation with at least two other firefighters and a visiting college student. The firefighters were watching a news broadcast on television about terrorism. Several black men were shown being arrested. Horton told them, "I am a racist. I hate n------. I hate white trash," according to the firefighter who made the complaint. She mentioned other ethnic groups before saying, "I'm proud of it." Wallace said Horton had written in her statement that the firefighters also used derogatory terms, such as "towel heads" and "lazy blacks." Wallace said Horton faced discipline that ranges from a written reprimand to immediate termination. The decision will be made following a predisciplinary hearing Tuesday with Chief Caroll Williams. "Whatever disciplinary action will be consistent with other city departments that have faced similar situations," Wallace said. Darryl Rouson, president for the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP, said being consistent with other cities means following the example set by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker. Last year, Baker fired St. Petersburg Police Chief Mack Vines after Vines admitted using the word orangutan to describe the actions of an arrested black man. Rouson wants Largo to do the same with Horton. "The language as reported, if true, is horrendous and abhorrent for a leader in a governmental agency whose job it is to serve the public," Rouson said. Rouson said he intended to poll his executive committee and discuss investigating the department "if the discipline is not severe to send a message to other leaders who serve the public that this type of conduct will not be tolerated." Horton, 39, is the highest ranking female officer in the department. She supervises four to eight firefighters at Station 41 at 180 Fourth St. SW as one of two lieutenants in charge of a shift of 15. Of the 118 firefighters in Largo, three are African-American and none reports to Horton. City Manager Steven Stanton said he had yet to read the report, but he said Largo had fired employees for making ethnic slurs. He said the city had a standard procedure in place that the department must follow before taking any disciplinary action. He said the department would consider Horton's employee history and level of responsibility. "With management, there is a higher standard within a city organization," Stanton said. "I don't want to prejudice the employee. . . . There have been situations in the past where employees have been terminated for saying certain things that instill gender or ethnic hostilities." - Michael Sandler can be reached at 445-4174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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11-12-2002, 08:59 AM #1
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Sensitive Issue - adult content
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