Mixed reaction to report of HFD discrimination

January 18, 2011 4:07:33 PM PST
Some city leaders are reacting with skepticism over a recent report that found Houston firefighter Jane Draycott had been exposed to a hostile work environment.


A day after a scathing report by the EEOC came to light, Houston Mayor Annise Parker says she's reserving judgment on the Houston Fire Department.

She said, "I am not going to speak to what may or may not have happened in the past. I don't believe it's there now, and it will not be tolerated going forward."

It was in 2009 that firefighters Jane Draycott and Paula Keyes first alleged that they were subjected to discrimination and sexual harassment at fire station 54 where they worked. Since then, Keyes has returned to work at a different station, while Draycott remains on leave. Their attorney wouldn't say he feels vindicated by the EEOC, but does say it's time for a resolution.

"Obviously this is an opportunity for both sides to digest the findings and to get together and talk about a potential resolution," explained Draycott's attorney Joe Ahmed.

We tried on multiple occasions to speak with Houston Fire Chief Terry Garrison about these developments, but the city of Houston, citing the fact that Mayor Parker already spoke out on the issue, refused to make the fire chief available to answer our questions.

Council members were quick to react, some saying the EEOC is just flat wrong.

City council member Mike Sullivan said, "I've visited dozens of fire stations hundreds of times over my time here at city hall, and I don't see what the EEOC says that is there."

While others say the report warrants serious consideration.

"I don't think because of the actions of one or two, or whatever the case may be in this case, we should over-react," said city council member Brenda Stardig. "I think that we have a great fire department and we should continue to support them as such."

If this latest report is not enough for the fire department to deal with, since Friday it's had to deal with the ongoing controversy between fire station #8 and council member Jolanda Jones over allegations of what was said and not said last Friday night. All of that has led to an office of the inspector general investigation.