Settle now or settle later
(Luis Sinco / LAT)
THIS IS WRONG’: Tennie Pierce addresses
the Los Angeles City Council with his wife, Brenda,
at his side. Standing with him at right are Willis
Edwards, a national board member of the NAACP;
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Urban Policy
Roundtable; and, at far right, Eddie Jones, president
of the L.A. Civil Rights Assn.
Firefighter settlement sharply splits council
A torturous debate left the Los Angeles City Council sharply divided by race Tuesday as members weighed whether to restore a settlement offered to a black firefighter whose dinner had been laced with dog food.
For the first time, the council heard directly from Tennie Pierce, the target of the incident, who had filed a discrimination case against the city.
At their lawyer's recommendation, council members initially voted to pay $2.7 million to keep it from going to trial. But last week — amid a storm of public reaction — Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa vetoed the action, setting the stage for Tuesday's council session.
"Whatever anyone says about me, I've always tried to do what's right," said Pierce, holding back tears as his wife sat nearby. "This is wrong. If four black firemen did it to a white fireman, I would stand up [with] the white fireman and say it was wrong."
With a decision expected today, all three black members — Bernard C. Parks, Jan Perry and Herb Wesson — said they would vote to override the veto because the white firefighters who doctored Pierce's spaghetti committed an act that could be viewed as racist and because the city could lose more money in court.
But other members said they had come to view it as a firehouse prank, especially after photos surfaced showing Pierce taking part in hazing rituals banned by a Fire Department that has repeatedly been accused in audits and other lawsuits of subjecting blacks to hostile conditions.
Later, Councilman Greig Smith ardently argued that he believed the dog food incident was serious but not racist.
"It is wrong, it is abusive, it is dehumanizing to all races and not just African Americans," Smith said. "I'm sorry, sir. The question here today is do we pay Mr. Pierce for his charge of racism or look at it for what it is."
Councilman Parks told Pierce that his comments had "brought tears to my eyes."
Parks said he had recently spoken on "The John & Ken Show" on KFI-AM (640), whose hosts have been prominent in fighting the settlement, and "I had the great pleasure of them hanging up on me.
"I said [to them], 'When's the last time that you ate dog food?' "
Pierce suggested to the council that the pranks he participated in were good-natured and said that, when they were over, "people would hug the person and take pictures with them. What they did to me at the Fire Station 5 was wrong because it was something I did not know. My mother worked three jobs to get me where I am today. At no time did she ever feed us dog food."
Pierce said that what bothered him most was that white firefighters watched him eat. And, when he complained, the Fire Department didn't help.
Are they kidding? You really think a federal trial jury won't find this racist? Feeding him dog food, and trying to write it off as a prank?
When they get to bring in racist acts within the department? LA is getting a bargain. You can't do this in New York. The City doesn't place settlements up for a vote. I think when the price is not only losing in LA County, but probably a much larger settlement they will have to pay, this is the cheaper and smarter solution.
posted by Steve @ 3:31:00 AM