Retired fire chief supports racial discrimination claim
Flames continue to spread following last week’s Daytona Times report that Fire Department Lieutenant Larry Stoney said he has filed an EEOC complaint against the city.
Last week, the Daytona Times reported Stoney’s claim that he was denied appointment as fire chief, and that a less qualified White male was appointed the job.
This week, the first Black fire chief of the Daytona Beach Fire Department (DBFD) came to Stoney’s aid.
First in history
Dwayne A. Murray was appointed to the position in 2007. Murray was the 16th fire chief in the city’s history and the first African-American to hold the post. He came to Daytona Beach after serving as the fire chief of the Birmingham (Ala.) Fire Department, which boasted 700 firefighters in 31 stations at the time Murray was in charge there. (The Daytona Beach Fire Department currently has 106 employees and six stations.)
‘Lived through it’
Murray relocated his family from Birmingham to Daytona to continue his career as a 25-year industry veteran. In a 2007 interview with the Daytona Times, Murray said the majority of people in Daytona Beach welcomed him with open arms. But he also admitted the last vestiges of segregation in the South reside in the fire department.
“It was the same thing in Birmingham, but we lived through it,” he said in 2007. “There are people who have made some phone calls looking for stuff. There seems to be a concern about me, which I simply don’t understand… My life is an open book. Still, before relocating here, the majority of folks were happy with (my) leadership. I believe the same thing will happen here.”
Within one year, he said City Manager Jim Chisolm asked him to resign.
“I knew that my time wouldn’t be long a few months after I got here,” said Murray. “The environment and professionals didn’t want to be better and I refused to march to the tune of the union. I came to work for the city of Daytona beach,” added Murray, who further claims he wasn’t given the support necessary to succeed.
Murray concurs with Stoney’s allegations that favoritism and discrimination infests the city’s top management and fire department ranks, which blocks fair promotions practices and creates a hostile work environment.
‘Reflect the demographics’
Murray refers to the exodus of African-American leadership from the Daytona city government as a travesty. He says that he was recruited then forced out by Chisolm.
“As soon as Mayor Yvonne Scarlett-Golden died (in 2006), City Hall stopped reflecting the demographic of the city,” said Murray. “Your leadership should represent the demographic of the city it serves, but when you have a 30-40 percent Black population and none in leadership, you end up with a Ferguson (Missouri).”
Cynthia Slater, president of the Volusia County-Daytona Beach NAACP branch, concurs with Murray’s sentiments. She encourages city employees to utilize the resources at hand to file grievances.
“People feel hopeless when faced with employment issues,” said Slater. “They need to realize that there is a process that is in place for them to file grievances when they believe that they have been wrongly terminated.”
Supports Stoney’s decision
Murray stated that he agrees with Stoney’s decision to file an EEOC claim and that he advised him years ago that he should file a suit against the city.
“Larry (Stoney) did the right thing by filing. I’m not going to tell you how to pick a fire chief, but Larry was qualified,” said Murray.
“It’s my understanding (current Daytona Beach Fire Chief Dru) Driscoll didn’t have a degree.
Stoney does and was the public information officer, a face everybody sees. I think he was qualified for the position, but don’t know all of the criteria that was used, but I don’t hear anybody questioning the appointment of Driscoll to fire chief,” Murray added.
Driscoll is a Daytona Beach native and a Seabreeze High School graduate. He holds an Associate of Arts degree in Fire Science. At the time he was appointed in March 2014, he was scheduled to graduate from Keiser University with a bachelor’s degree in public safety administration.
Murray earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Stillman College and an Associate of Arts degree in Applied Science/Fire Service before undergoing five years of extensive management studies.
Focus on training
Murray says that he arrived in Daytona with a vision that focused on training, and a philosophy that you should never have to go outside of your department to hire a fire chief. A chief’s legacy should be that he trained people to take his place.
“I believe that if you’re going to be a professional, you have to do things a professional does, like continued education,” said Murray. “I wanted to send firemen to the International Fire Academy – which costs the city nothing – because you were reimbursed for travel and gained cutting edge information. But they wouldn’t leave Florida to learn.”
During his brief tenure, Murray said he was once scheduled to attend a leader-specific training at the International Fire Academy. One week prior, he received an email saying he and another African-American city employee were both taken off the list.
Murray believes the reason was discord between him and International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 1162.
The city of Daytona Beach recognizes the union as the exclusive bargaining agent for all employees occupying the positions of fire lieutenant, fire mechanic, driver engineer, and firefighter. Excluded are the fire chief, deputy fire chiefs, and battalion fire chiefs.
Murray says he often found himself fighting the union instead of fires.
“I don’t want to classify it as right or wrong, but initially what I saw was a department that was run by the union,” stated Murray. “I’ve never seen a fire department with union insignia painted on property. The union even had an office with computers onsite and conducted business there.”
‘Umbrella of preference’
Stoney also questioned the union’s tactics and their relationship with the DBFD. In an open letter that precedes his EEOC grievance. Addressed to Chief Driscoll, Stoney closed with the following:
“Lastly, this open letter is to seek resolution to administrative changes. DBFD, along with the Local 1162, has spent excessive amounts of time and energy on ensuring an efficient working out of class structure, yet the department seems to operate under an umbrella of personal preference and not the umbrella of set guidelines that were constructed to be both functional and nondiscriminatory.
“The department has in place a process, along with testing procedures, to allow those persons who desire to matriculate to the next level of leadership the opportunity to chase those dreams, so why have recent decisions given the impression that the process can only be utilized at the expense of some and not within the confines of operational guidelines for all?”
Murray points to continuing problems with the firefighters’ union. However, in the January 8, 2008 issue of the Daytona Times, he downplayed the union as the reason for his departure.
“The papers say that I did not get along with the union and that is not true. I had no animosity or ill will against anybody. I had an open door policy. I had no difficulties with dealing with union issues,” Murray told the Daytona Times.
“Our relationship was professional. Chief Murray was a real nice guy. He listened to our issues and gave us options on dealing with them. I was not an open critic of him as other publications said. We were not nasty to each other,” then-union president Mike Tyrell said.
Tyrell also noted that Murray was in a tough situation.
“He walked in (Daytona Beach) Police Chief (Michael) Chitwood’s shadow…Chitwood could say what he wanted. He has an open budget. He can spend with an open cap. Murray did not have that.”
Back in 2008, Murray also denied any conflict between himself and other city officials.
“The papers say that I did not get along with the union and that is not true. I had no animosity or ill will against anybody. I had an open door policy. I had no difficulties with dealing with union issues,” Murray told the Daytona Times then.
“When you have goals and objectives that you want to accomplish, you must have the resources and support. It was obvious that the political establishment was not going to change. I felt that I could not do my job as best as I could.”
Why speak out now? Murray said in 2008, he was tired.
Tired of fighting
“I’m from Birmingham and have been fighting all my life. I came here (to Daytona Beach) okay, and I am still okay financially, mentally, and socially. I thought it would be nice to continue service in the community in which I live.
“I refuse to fight a battle where everyone in the community thinks it’s okay and fine. If they are satisfied, I can’t fight a battle. I could have kept my job, but it would have been so much turmoil, it wouldn’t have been worth it.
“I been fighting all my life and I’m tired of fighting. Particularly when it’s not a problem to anyone else. For all the people who have left city government, no one has said nothing.”
Government Relations Administrator Hardy Smith responded via email on behalf of the city to a request for comment on this story.
“Thank you for your inquiry. The City will not comment on a situation that involves a possible EEOC complaint,” he wrote.
The Daytona Times reached out to Mayor Derrick Henry, Commissioners Patrick Henry and Paula Reed and an IAAF representative for comment. None returned phone calls as of the newspaper’s press time late Wednesday night. Chisholm was attending an out-of-state convention and was unavailable to personally respond.