Fire Dept. suspends worker in noose incident Target in Balto. Co. was black firefighter

September 05, 1997|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Nine months after a black Baltimore County firefighter found a noose in his gear at the Towson fire station, the Fire Department has filed administrative charges and suspended one employee in the case.

Battalion Chief Mark F. Hubbard declined yesterday to give the name or position of the employee charged but said he was suspended without pay Tuesday night.

Hubbard said the employee was accused of "potential alleged violations of rules or regulations" of the Fire Department. A trial board will hold a hearing within 30 days.

Hubbard refused to give details, saying, "These are not public charges."

The trial board, which could call witnesses, will make a decision that could range from exoneration to dismissal, said Hubbard.

In January, the county Police Department ended a six-week investigation without filing criminal charges after a rope was tied into a noose that was found in Firefighter James G. Shelton's gear in his locker area.

Hubbard said Shelton found the noose Dec. 3, hanging on a hook under his coat. A few days later, it reappeared, falling out of his pocket as he returned from an emergency call.

Shelton was one of two black firefighters among more than 40 assigned to the Towson station at the time. Police reports said he was angry about finding the noose and felt that the incidents were racially motivated.

Shelton was on duty at the Towson station early last night and could not be reached for comment because he was responding to a call.

Hubbard referred to the Police Department's lack of evidence for criminal charges, saying yesterday, "We don't need the depth of proof [for administrative charges] that you need for criminal proceedings."

James W. Artis, president of the Guardian Knights, a group that represents the county's 65 black firefighters -- out of a total of just over 1,000 -- said yesterday that he could not comment on the case because his group had not been given details of the recent charges.

"We have to take a neutral position because our organization was never notified that the investigation was completed," he said.

Since the noose incidents, Artis said, the Fire Department has scheduled diversity training for employees for next month in an attempt to avoid racial incidents.

Pub Date: 9/05/97

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