Indiana Firefighter Files Discrimination Suit

MUNCIE - An African-American firefighter who sued to get a job on the Muncie Fire Department is suing again over his failure to be promoted.

"I believe I was discriminated against due to my race," said Fire Sgt. James E. Mitchell. "In the 12 years that Gary Lucas has been fire chief, he has never recommended a promotion of a black to any position."

Mitchell filed suit in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis recently, charging Muncie city government with racial discrimination. A pre-trial conference is scheduled next month.

According to the suit, Mitchell alleged he was not promoted to the job of chief arson investigator last year after filing a letter of interest and receiving training for the post.

When it came time be interviewed by Lucas, Mitchell said, he was given a job description that included a requirement for 100 hours of training that had not been mentioned when he applied.

"He changed the ball game on me," said Mitchell.

Lucas ultimately recommended MPD Lt. Dave Miller, who is white, for the arson investigator's job. Miller was then appointed by Muncie's Police Fire Merit Commission.

Lucas declined to comment about Mitchell's allegation or the department's promotional practices, given the pending lawsuit.

Last year, Mitchell filed a discrimination complaint against the city, claiming he was bypassed for promotion. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Indiana Civil Rights Commission issued a right to sue notice last fall.

In 1979, Mitchell and Charles McCallum filed suit, claiming they were denied appointment to the fire department because they were African-Americans. An out-of-court settlement later gave them jobs and back pay.

Eight African-Americans now serve on the 120-member fire department.