Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Politics

East Lake Fire Rescue barrels toward arbitration over racism claims

EAST LAKE — East Lake Fire Rescue may be barreling toward costly arbitration as the department seeks to sort out the firestorm of racial accusations that led to the demotion of one of its lieutenants.

East Lake fire commissioners — elected officials who oversee the department — seemed poised Monday to reinstate firefighter Bill Figueredo, whom they demoted from lieutenant to driver after he was accused of making a Nazi salute.

But commissioners abruptly adjourned Monday's meeting without resolution after Figueredo gave an impassioned speech about how the allegation had hurt him and his family.

The accusation was made by commission Chairman Mark Weinkrantz, who didn't attend Monday's meeting.

"I never, ever thought I'd wake up one morning and find myself … accused of religious racism against the Jewish people," Figueredo said. "That would suggest I harbor hate toward my own dad, a Jewish doctor who has raised me since I was 10 years old. My brothers and sister."

After that, Commissioner Paul Ferreri withdrew his motion to reinstate Figueredo with full pay, though he acknowledged the fire department doesn't have the financial resources or emotional capital to withstand legal action.

"It's tough to know what to say here because I don't feel like we're moving on," Ferreri said. "I thought this was going to be over with and be done with, but I have a feeling it's not."

Fire department attorney Andy Salzman said he would work with Figueredo's attorney Michael Stephens to try to resolve the issue and avoid arbitration, which he said could cost more than $10,000.

Stephens estimated the cost would be much higher.

The meeting was only the latest drama to unfold at East Lake Fire Rescue, which has roughly 40 employees and operates a $4.2 million budget.

During an April meeting, Figueredo, a Cuban-American and the department's only minority, argued Weinkrantz had fabricated the Nazi salute accusation to get him fired.

Figueredo said Weinkrantz routinely called him a "dirty Mexican" in addition to bringing pink 8-pound weights into the department and giving them to Figueredo, calling him a derogatory name for homosexuals.

Lt. James Finley, who had also filed a grievance accusing Figueredo of a Jewish slur, is also not credible, Figueredo argued, showing commissioners two provocative and racist text messages sent from Finley's phone.

Weinkrantz said he bought the pink weights because they were on sale. Finley did not respond to phone calls to his house.

East Lake fire Chief Tom Jamison said he's implementing sensitivity training in the department and following up on accusations.

Brittany Alana Davis can be contacted at [email protected] or 850-323-0353. To write a letter to the editor, visit tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Updated: 3 hours ago
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18