Mass. town apologizes to former firefighter almost 10 years after racial incident

Brookline Select Board Member Raul Fernandez said of "Mr. Alston, I'm sorry that we let you down. I'm sorry that our actions brought you pain and damaged your reputation"

By FireRescue1 Staff 

BROOKLINE, Mass. — Brookline town officials issued a formal apology to a former Brookeline firefighter who was eventually fired after coming forward to report a racial epithet left on his voicemail in 2010.  

The Patch reported that in 2010, then-firefighter Gerald Alston reported a voicemail from his supervisor, which included a racial slur, to officials. An internal investigation concluded the voicemail was left by his supervisor, but the slur was directed at some else.

(Photo/ Brookline Fire Department)
(Photo/ Brookline Fire Department)

In 2013, Alston was placed on paid leave after officials claimed he was allegedly making threatening comments at work. The following year, he was placed on unpaid administrative leave and in 2016 the town fired him, stating he refused to work with officials or return to work.

This week, Brookline Town Meeting members voted to formally apologize to Alston, after he was reinstated as a firefighter by a Suffolk Superior Court judge, despite town officials appealing the ruling, claiming they were unclear how to handle the incident due to ongoing federal litigation.

"Mr. Alston, I'm sorry that we let you down,” Select Board Member Raul Fernandez said. “ I'm sorry that our actions brought you pain and damaged your reputation."

The judge also ordered an expedited briefing on Alton’s case and denied the town’s motion to stay enforcement of the Civil Service Commission decision.

"This is not just about optics, it's about badly needed systemic change. Brookline must stop passing nonbinding resolutions like this and start sitting down and doing the work," Town Meeting Member Donelle O'Neal Sr. of Precinct 4 said, who voted against issuing the apology. "What kind of apology is this anyway? And why are we apologizing to only Mr. Alston? What about every other victim of racism and discrimination in town? What happened to Gerald Alston was horrible, but we are not doing him or anyone else justice by passing this warrant article."

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