An investigator hired by the city of Miami Beach to probe allegations of racism, sexual harassment and intimidation in the city’s fire department says there is no evidence to substantiate a damning affidavit authored by a former fire recruit.
Brian Gentles, in a 15-page complaint filed in April with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said a recruit placed his testicles on his face and another shoved a broomstick up his buttocks. He was told to “go back to Africa,” called a “n-----” and a “faggot,” and told a noose “would look good around your neck,” he said.
When he reported the complaints to his bosses, he was fired when he would not recant his allegations, Gentles said.
“They’re setting a precedent: You can treat somebody like this and it doesn’t matter, we’ll cover it up,” said Gentles, a stocky, black 27-year-old who was a recruit from early 2011 until February of this year.
In September, Gentles demanded $5.3 million in damages, lost wages and attorney’s fees. The city’s attorneys settled with him for $100,000, and allowed him to return to the department as an inspector as long as he passed an exam, City Attorney Jose Smith said.
The city also hired investigator Steven Schwarzberg to investigate Gentles’ claims.
Schwarzberg signed his report Thursday. The city released it Monday.
The investigator said more than 30 witnesses denied the accusations, many of which he described as “not credible.”
“So many people categorically denied the accusations made against them and others so as to call to question whether there was any factual basis for the charges,” Schwarzberg wrote
Reached Monday night, Gentles, who has not yet returned to work, said Schwarzberg was “paid by the city, so he’s really not independent.”
“If they wanted this to be independent, a three-letter agency would have been contacted,” Gentles said, referring to the Department of Justice, which found in 1991 that the department had unfairly kept black and Hispanic applicants from getting jobs as firefighters.
“I’m just glad the report is finally out,” Fire Chief Javier Otero said. “Hopefully it speaks for itself.”