Suspended county firefighter settles case He was accused of placing a noose in black co-worker's gear

October 01, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A white Baltimore County firefighter -- suspended without pay last month on administrative charges that he left a noose in a black co-worker's gear -- settled his case yesterday, one day before his trial board hearing.

Fire Chief Paul H. Reincke, who recently called the case too sensitive to handle internally, would not disclose terms of the settlement with firefighter Walter L. Brewer III, saying it is confidential by law.

Brewer had the option of proposing a settlement to the department, Reincke said, and he did.

"Our interest is in correcting the behavior, not in harsh punishment," said Battalion Chief Mark Hubbard, the department's spokesman. He said he did not know the terms of the agreement, but added, "Some kind of discipline was imposed."

He did not know whether the department had notified James G. Shelton, the black firefighter who twice found a rope shaped like a noose among his gear in the Towson fire station in December.

Neither Brewer nor Shelton responded to calls for comment.

Kevin B. O'Connor, president of Local 1311 of the Baltimore County Fire Fighters Association, said, "We're very, very happy that both sides were able to come to an agreement and dispose of the situation." The union provided Washington lawyer Douglas L. Steele to represent Brewer.

County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger noted that police investigated the incident for six weeks in January, but filed no criminal charges.

"We're not going to tolerate any kind of racism whatsoever," he said, adding that the noose "was not an incident that was proper."

Still, he said, laws protecting the privacy of personnel keep county officials from revealing the settlement's terms -- or whether Brewer's suspension is over.

Brewer's name had remained secret until two weeks ago, when it was revealed in an angry letter O'Connor sent Reincke.

The letter protested Brewer's suspension without pay before ahearing, and accused the chief of caving in to political pressure by scheduling a rarely used trial board proceeding.

Reincke replied at the time that he went outside the department to the trial board -- a panel of county officials -- "because we didn't want to give any indication of a cover-up."

Pub Date: 10/01/97

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