Sanctions dropped in race harassment case

Firefighters faced complaint of slurs

October 19, 2006|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun Reporter

Seven members of the Taneytown Volunteer Fire Company, accused by the only African American member of racial harassment, will not face probation or suspension from the department, the fire company's attorney said yesterday.

Michelle Ostrander, the fire company's attorney, said the sanctions that the seven firefighters had faced were dropped.

Former volunteer Pernell Hammond, 33, resigned in July after three months with the fire company and filed a complaint with company officials against fellow firefighters for using racial slurs toward him, he said.

When the seven firefighters faced sanctions for their alleged treatment of Hammond, Ostrander said, they appealed the charges within the company.

The charges against the seven firefighters were dropped on Oct. 2 when Hammond said he would not attend the appeals hearing, Ostrander said.

Hammond, a Taneytown resident, said he was told to attend the hearing without a lawyer.

"It was plain and simple they wanted me to come to this meeting without any representation," Hammond said.

But Ostrander placed the blame on Hammond, saying that as of last week he had failed to obtain a lawyer to represent him.

Hammond said he would be conferring with the Carroll County branch of the NAACP to discuss any possible action he may pursue in the case.

"It really disappoints me that in this day and age this stuff is still going on and they consider it business as usual in Taneytown," said Charles Harrison, president of Carroll's NAACP branch. "The folks up there just don't get it."

Whites make up about 95 percent of the population in Carroll County. In Taneytown, in northwestern Carroll, the 2000 population was just over 5,000 residents. Of those, 1.7 percent were black, according to U.S. Census figures.

Perry L. Jones Jr., Carroll's first black commissioner and a volunteer firefighter in Union Bridge since 1972, said he wasn't aware of other allegations of racial discrimination at any of the county's 14 volunteer fire companies.

Another black firefighter was active with the Taneytown company from the late 1970s through early 1990s and had no problems, Jones said.

"I was surprised to hear of that," Jones said of Hammond's complaint.

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