1. #1
    Sr. Information Officer
    NJFFSA16's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    25 NW of the GW

    Exclamation Firefighter Lawsuit -9/11 Task Force member

    Firefighter cut from search team files civil-rights suit

    Associated Press Writer
    HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Firefighter Joseph K. Williams arrived in
    New York City late on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, and spent nine
    days in Manhattan as part of an elite state-sponsored urban
    search-and-rescue team.
    After returning home to Harrisburg, Williams received an award
    for heroism and something he did not expect - word that his
    services were no longer needed.
    More than two years later, his dismissal from both Task Force
    One, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, and
    from the Harrisburg Fire Bureau's similar unit, Rescue One, has
    prompted him to file a federal civil-rights lawsuit.
    "I think that they were foolish in thinking I wouldn't pursue
    this matter, because I worked hard to get on this job," Williams
    said Monday.
    Williams, 39, who is black, said the reasons he was given for
    his dismissal were that he spent too much time talking on his
    cellular telephone and showed a "lack of initiative" during the
    World Trade Center attacks response.
    He acknowledged using his cell phone to stay in touch with
    relatives but said it was only during slow periods in his work as a
    logistics specialist, keeping track of supplies and equipment.
    "The startling thing is there was no 'Hey, Joe, knock it off
    with the phone' and that sort of thing. I'm still perplexed as to
    that," said Williams' lawyer, Timothy R. Hough.
    In the eight-count federal suit filed Dec. 22 against the city,
    its fire bureau, PEMA and the city and state rescue teams, Williams
    is seeking more than $100,000 in damages and an injunction to keep
    the defendants from subjecting him to "retaliation and disparate
    Harrisburg Fire Chief Don Konkle, PEMA spokesman Maria Smith,
    and lawyers for the state and city governments all said on Monday
    that they had not seen the lawsuit and declined comment.
    Williams said there is "institutionalized racism" within the
    Harrisburg Fire Bureau, where he has worked for nine years.
    "It's like I have to work hard to get the same treatment that
    the Caucasian members get," said Williams. He believes that losing
    his spot on the two search-and-rescue teams has hampered his
    prospects for advancement within the department, caused him
    financial hardship and triggered bouts of depression.
    White members of the search-and-rescue team who have been in
    disciplinary trouble received more lenient treatment, Hough said.
    "There's going to be some evidence that there were other
    people, who did other things that were relatively more serious,
    that got warnings or brief suspensions, that weren't dismissed
    summarily as he was," Hough said.
    Complaints filed by Williams with the state and city human
    relations commissions did not result in any specific findings,
    although he was issued a right-to-sue letter, Hough said.
    The firefighters' union turned down his request for a grievance,
    according to Williams.

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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  2. #2
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Richmond, VA


    Uhhh...Did I miss something here? Shouldn't this guy be filing suit because he was wrongly accused? What about the punishment did not match the alleged infraction(s)?

    Don't get me wrong here-if there really is "institutionalized racism"(huh?) going on somebody should get the snot throttled outta him/her and this guy should get his job back....

    Being canned by a dumb-***** or for dumb-***** reasons does not a racist make...

    Have a safe New Years folks!

    "Well done is better than well said" - B. Franklin

  3. #3
    Forum Member
    PAVolunteer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2001
    Dauphin County, PA


    I will definitely look into this. Of all the contact I've had w/ Harrisburg City firemen and Task Force One, I have never, ever heard anyone even suggest racism w/in the department.

    ... w/ layoffs looming, this is all the HFD needs ...

    Stay Safe

  4. #4
    Junior Member

    Join Date
    Oct 2003


    I bet there more to this story........

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