Firefighter cut from search team files civil-rights suit
By MARK SCOLFORO
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
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
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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12-29-2003, 11:17 PM #1
Firefighter Lawsuit -9/11 Task Force memberProudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
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12-30-2003, 11:01 PM #2
- 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!Rob
"Well done is better than well said" - B. Franklin
12-31-2003, 09:24 AM #3
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 ...
12-31-2003, 03:25 PM #4
- Join Date
- Oct 2003
I bet there more to this story........
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