Gerald Alston, Jr., an inactive Brookline firefighter and an African-American, was a potential target of a racial slur which had been left on voice mail by a supervisor in 2010. After Mr. Alston complained, that supervisor was sanctioned by a temporary suspension. About three years later, the supervisor was promoted. Mr. Alston’s complaints against Brookline’s handling of his case have appeared in the news before, notably in a Boston Globe article from August, 2013.
According to the Globe article, Mr. Alston said, after he complained, that he had been “ostracized” by others in the fire department. The article reported that he had filed a lawsuit against the town. At a meeting of the Board of Selectmen Tuesday, December 2, Mr. Alston came with a group of supporters–including Precinct 15 town meeting member Mariela Ames, Precinct 3 town meeting member Patricia Connors and former Precinct 6 town meeting member Arthur Conquest. They distributed to members of the public a two-page letter from Mr. Alston addressed to Kenneth Goldstein, the board’s chair, dated about a week earlier.
Neither Mr. Alston nor Brooks Ames, spouse of Mariela Ames and also present at the meeting, disclosed that Mr. Alston has not been active in the Brookline fire department, that his lawsuit has been dismissed at Norfolk Superior Court or that Mr. Ames has taken over as his legal representative–as the Boston Globe reported today.
During a “public comment” period, Mr. Alston spoke to the board. Board member Nancy Daly acted as chair, in the absence of Mr. Goldstein. Following is what Mr. Alston had to say, as best it could be understood from a video recording distributed by Brookline Interactive Group, leaving out only fillers and pauses in speech:
At Board of Selectmen, December 2, 2014, 6:30 pm, Town Hall, adapted from Brookline Interactive Group (with video timings)
6:42 pm (8.21) Gerald Alston: Let me…introduce myself. My name is Gerald Alston, Jr.–firefighter Gerald Alston, Jr. I’m coming before you, the board–first and foremost–to say that I have lost all respect, trust and anything whatsoever with your administration. I am coming before you to look at everything that I’ve presented and to ask that you bring in an independent contractor to…focus on the racism within the fire department–not the entire fire department, certain individuals–and how the town administration handled my situation.
(9.07) I’ve been on the job since 2002, and since 2002 I have not had any incidents until 2010. Since I spoke up and asked what the policies were in my case, I have been persecuted. I have been treated like trash. I have been disrespected by your administration–Sandra DeBow in particular–and I refuse to deal with her in any way, shape or form. [Sandra DeBow-Huang, the director of human resources]
(9.34) Nancy Daly: [I] asked people not to say [names]….
(9.37) Gerald Alston: OK.
(9.38) Nancy Daly: You can talk about the department.
(9.41) Gerald Alston: The department has a number of firefighters who are amazing and support everything that I’m saying, but there are a few in this department that are like cancer–who they are, I can’t point them out–because they’re cowards and hide behind a false smile and false respect. I’m asking you, as the town council, to bring in an independent entity to find out what’s going on and to fix it.
(10.16) I’m not the problem, but the town administration is making me the problem: making me have to jump through hoops just to keep my job, demanding that I take medication–because they feel I have some type of mental disorder or because I questioned what were they going to do about this situation. Now I have no faith in them anymore.
(10.42) The only…people I can deal with and request some kind of help [from] is you. This is as far as it’s going. I’m following…the necessary steps it takes. I’m not doing anything wrong. For this I think we need to find out what the problem is and to fix it. That’s all I’ve been asking, from day one…to just fix it. Thank you.
6:45 pm (11.11) Nancy Daly: OK, thank you.
– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, December 6, 2014
James H. Burnett, III, Brookline firefighter asks selectmen to review department’s racial climate, Boston Globe, released December 6, 2014
Brookline Interactive Group, Board of Selectmen, December 2, 2014
Brock Parker, Brookline firefighter sues town over alleged racial slur, Boston Globe, August 30, 2013