Fire department hit with EEOC complaint
Daytona Lt. Larry Stoney says he was racially discriminated against in city’s 2013 selection of chief
BY PENNY DICKERSON
Daytona Beach Fire Department Lt. Larry Stoney said he has filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claim against the city, citing that he was racially discriminated against when he was denied the appointment of fire chief. A White candidate was selected whom Stoney believes was less qualified.
Stoney said his claim was filed with the EEOC district office in Miami. In a letter dated April 10, Stoney shared the application’s grievance letter with the Daytona Times, which included egregious allegations.
“I have applied and been denied three ‘chief officer’ positions with the city of Daytona Beach. Two of those positions were filled by less qualified persons,” Stoney’s letter stated.
“The last position I applied for was the Battalion Chief of Administration and Battalion Chief of B Battalion in the operations division, but were given to less qualified Caucasian Males that were either drinking and hanging friends with Chief Driscoll or worked with him and had both professional and private relationships,” the letter continued.
Where are the Blacks?
Currently, Whites fill almost 80 percent of the available jobs at the fire department. There are 14 African-Americans employed, three Hispanic/Latinos, and a single American Indian/Native Alaskan works as a driver engineer.
Stoney’s complaint echoes allegations that a litany of African-Americans in Daytona Beach administrative leadership have resigned, retired or been fired since the appointment of City Manager Jim Chisholm.
Among those gone are Ricardo Kisner, finance director; Cheryl Harrison-Lee, Development Services director; Dwayne Murray, the city’s first Black fire chief; James Benderson, planner; and Etienne Seales, records manager.
While the municipality is led by Mayor Derrick Henry, an African-American, racial disparity in appointment and promotion appears to be rampant in high-level positions of authority.
Qualified but dismissed
Stoney joined the fire department in 2002 and later obtained his Bachelor of Science degree from Bethune-Cookman in 2006. He worked as a fire department driver engineer and has since served in numerous leadership and public service capacities, including public information officer (PIO), public safety coordinator (PSC) and chaplain.
A Port Orange resident since 2008, Stoney said he has applied and been denied numerous high-level leadership positions. But in 2013, he felt qualified and applied for the position of fire chief.
“There was a job posting with the minimum qualifications of a bachelor’s degree, and one of the things I’ve been fighting with the city over since 2008, is that they did not want to accept my degree because it was not in fire science,” Stoney explained.
“But the job posting’s language has changed over the past few years. My master’s degree is in business administration and the fire department is a business. If anybody has a master’s degree in business or public administration, then it’s a no-brainer that you would at least consider their résumé,” he added.
Changes by Driscoll
When Stoney applied for the department chief position, the city’s current chief, Dru Driscoll, was also an applicant and the interim chief. Stoney dually served as the department’s public information office and public service coordinator but Driscoll “civilianized” both positions and moved Stoney back to his lieutenant’s role in the fire station.
“Driscoll moved Stoney back into a station position because that was one of the issues with him not getting promoted. He had never run a station,” said Jim Sexton, human resources director for the City of Daytona Beach.
“If I remember correctly, Driscoll sent him a letter thanking him for his service as PIO and said he was moving him back into a station to take on ‘next level stuff’ which arguably would be battalion chief, deputy chief, and potentially chief,” Sexton added.
Stoney’s stance and perspective significantly contrasts. In a formal letter to Driscoll dated July 15, 2014, Stoney addressed rumors about the move back to his lieutenant’s role at the station. He said he added the allegations in his EEOC claim.
Alleged are that subordinate city workers and staff were informed by the city manager’s office of his removal prior to him being told. Stoney further states that Driscoll’s appointment simultaneously coincided with his own “public roles being diminished.” Lastly, Driscoll sent him a cellular “text message” informing him of the transition instead of a formal correspondence.
City unaware of claim
Stoney began documenting his internal observations and grievance in letters that date back to July 2014. Filing a federal EEOC claim was not his preferred route to an amicable resolution. To Stoney, it was his last resort.
According to the EEOC, if you believe you have been discriminated against by an employer, labor union or employment agency when applying for a job or while on the job because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information, you may file a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
“When we get a complaint, we receive it from the Miami office, but I have not received anything from EEOC,” said Sexton.
“When I do, it will usually say what we are required to disclose, require that we state our policies and request that we submit all the applications and résumés of everybody who applied and what was the process used to hire.”
The EEOC process
Upon final review of the aforementioned, which will include the city’s “position statement,” the EEOC will make a determination and issue either a “finding of cause” validating that the employer did discriminate or enter into a conciliation process on Stoney’s behalf.
If the EEOC enters a “no cause determination,” the office would then send a letter to Stoney (and the city) stating that their findings does not mean nothing happened, but rather it is their position that there is no cause. Stoney would then have 90 days to sue his employer and will be issued a “right to sue letter” by the EEOC.
“Stoney could have filed a complaint against the city with our EEOC coordinator, who is Betty Goodman, assistant city manager. She would have taken his complaint and probably either delegated the investigation to me in Human Resources or probably been a co-investigator to investigate his claim of discrimination and retaliation,” Sexton explained.
“At that point, the city would have investigated that made a determination. If at that point he was still unhappy with the determination, he could pursue an EEOC complaint.
Arguably, he had every right to still file an EEOC federal complaint.”