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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Racism claims lead to staffing shakeup at East Lake Fire Rescue

East Lake Fire Rescue stripped one lieutenant of his rank and reinstated another in an effort to address allegations of racial harassment and fend off looming arbitration.

The decisions are the department's latest attempt to regain footing after its leaders have accused each other of inappropriate texts, racial harassment and mismanagement.

The East Lake Fire Commission, the elected board that oversees the department, decided Tuesday to reverse an April decision to demote Bill Figueredo from lieutenant to driver and drop his pay $5,000 after he was accused of giving a Nazi salute and using a Jewish slur. He denies both accusations.

he move to reinstate Figueredo helps the department avoid arbitration that could have cost $10,000 or more, according to department attorney Andy Salzman.

Also, last week the department demoted James Finley, one of Figueredo's accusers, from lieutenant to driver after an investigation found that several other firefighters accused him of racist and sexist text messages and harassing language.

The messages include a picture of a black man popping out of a brown box that said, "Thanks for the gift, but I am sending it back it won't f- - - - - - work." Another shows a naked woman with her hair in a towel that says, "Not all towel heads are bad!!"

Read more here.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 1:57pm]


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