Docs surrounding firefighter suspensions released

December 2, 2010 4:14:28 PM PST
The jobs of three firefighters are on the line over a racially offensive comment written on a patient's official report. We've got new information about the case against them, information the city did not want us to have. We first told you about the case back in September. Three firefighters were indefinitely suspended over a racial slur discovered on a medical report after those firefighters transported a patient.

To this day, no one can tell us who wrote it, but that isn't stopping the city from indefinitely suspending all three.

The city of Houston didn't want you to see what's in the documents. We only were able to get them after the Texas Attorney General forced the city to hand them over. They provide, though, only limited detail of the cases against those three firefighters.

The 23 pages detail the indefinite suspensions given three Houston firefighters -- Spencer Allred, Ryan Smith and Randal Ricks. The city documents state that investigators "found sufficient evidence" that each "acted improperly" when a racial slur was entered into the narrative of a patient report following a medical call in March.

Parts of each document are exactly the same, word for word, accusing the three firefighters of allowing the offensive phrase to be written and transmitted in the patient report.

Back on September 8, Houston Mayor Annise Parker took a hard line.

"If the firefighter who did this would stand up and acknowledge his actions, we wouldn't be punishing two innocent firefighters. But we have to take a stand," Mayor Parker said.

But it's that stand the firefighters union now questions.

"Those documents are long on accusations and short on real evidence," said Jeff Caynon of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association.

The letters also state that each firefighter "was untruthful" to investigators or "made a false statement" which thwarted discovery of fact. Caynon says there is nothing in the report, or that has ever been presented in any hearing, which corroborates the allegations.

"At the end of the day, what those documents don't have is direct evidence or some definitive statement about we know you did it and here's why -- because it doesn't exist," said Caynon.

The union says two innocent fire fighters are being punished.

"There had to be knowledge of it before, during or after the fact. Even if one did not write it, they still had knowledge of it," said Houston City Attorney David Feldman.

Neither the mayor's office nor fire department responded to our repeated calls today for comment. We wanted to know what proof the city has to support its allegations.


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