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Were allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination swept under the rug by the Miami Beach Fire Department?

Gentles states that he is not a homesexual and doesn’t understand why some of his fellow recruits insist that he’s gay?

Were allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination swept under the rug by the Miami Beach Fire Department?

By Jimmie Davis, Jr.

     Normally when a floor is swept, a dustpan is used to collect the debris but occasionally the dirt is swept under the rug to conceal the trash.

    The Miami Beach Fire Department [MBFD] recently concluded an investigation surrounding allegations made against them by Brian Gentles, 26, for sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation and a hostile environment.

    The city claims they found no wrong doing but settled the lawsuit out of court and paid Gentles $100,000 which demonstrates to him that his allegations were swept under the rug to conceal what exactly transpired.

    “On three occasions Recruit Daniel Fiorito took out his testicles and walked around inside the training class,” said Brian Gentles [during an interview] who filed a lawsuit against the MBFD with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). “During one training class he pulled out his testicles and they touched my face.”

    Gentles say other events occurred such as a broomstick being shoved into his buttocks, racial epithets being slurred at him and comments about his sexual orientation.

    Gentles states that he is not a homosexual and doesn’t understand why some of his fellow recruits insist that he’s gay?

    Donald Papy, Chief Deputy Attorney for the City of Miami Beach submitted to the Westside Gazette a 75 page report of the investigation that was conducted by an outside agency [Schwarzberg & Associates].

    “…The complaints were ignored or essentially covered up,” Gentles says in the report on page 2.

    Gentles say his employment with the MBFD was terminated during the probationary period because they claim he didn’t disclose information about a prior job.

    He went on a hunger strike for two weeks to protest his ordeal but stopped under doctor’s orders.

    Eventually Gentles became homeless for several months and had to sleep in his car because he no longer had income to pay his rent.

    Gentles said that he was supposed to report the sexual harassment and name calling when they first occurred but he was afraid.

    He also said his allegations were reported to superiors but things just continued to disintegrate.

    It appears that a Garrity warning was given to Fiorito and he responded by denying the charges that were being waged against him.

    “Right from the beginning when allegations about someone’s penis being pulled out we had to start an investigation,” said Javier Otero, Fire Chief MBFD. “A Garrity warning is like the firefighters bill of rights. Fiorito had to be warned that if we found anything true during the investigation that it could be used against him.”

    Firefighters belong to a labor union that’s supposed to represent their best interest and Gen-tles said he contacted Adonis Garcia, president of the Miami Beach Firefighters IAFF Local 1510 and was told not to snitch.

    “If you snitch they will fire you,” Gentles said Garcia told him. “Don’t snitch.”

    During the investigation Garcia asked that the tape re-corder be turned off and it’s at this point that Gentles says that he was asked to go outside by Garcia and was asked not to tell on any firefighter.

    “…Union President Garcia did ask Chief Otero to turn off the recorder…” as stated in the report on page 37.

    Garcia told the Westside Gazette that he was not the person to speak with and declined to be interviewed.

    MBFD has had previous charges of discrimination im-posed against them. In 1991 they entered into a consent de-cree with the US Justice Depart-ment who won a lawsuit against them.

    The MBFD has been court ordered to hire more Black fire-fighters.

    More tribulation arises for the MBFD in light of Henry Bryant, Fire Inspector being ar-rested for conspiracy to traffic cocaine.

    Perhaps the most way-ward-ness can also be found on page 37 when Chief Otero said the investigation was incomplete because “two people said they saw something” with regards to the alleged exposure.

    Additionally, on page 42 – Jorge Sanabria, Training Fire Chief testified that he inter-viewed all recruits and “two of the recruits mentioned the ex-posure by Recruit Fiorito, but they didn’t know what they saw.”

    Page 47 of the report reads as follows “Chief Sanabria interviewed the recruits to ask them if they had ever seen Fiorito expose himself. In response to that direct question, 2 recruits made statements to Chief Sanabria that they had seen Recruit Fiorito “expose himself” on one occasion.”  

    The Westside Gazette submitted a series of questions to Papy about the names of the recruits and what they saw – but he tiptoed around the query.

    “The City of Miami Beach and Mr. Brian Gentles entered into a Settlement Agreement to resolve all of his claims of discrimination for his termination and the alleged discriminatory actions taken against him while he was a probationary fire-fighter,” said Papy. “Because all claims made by Mr. Gentles have now been resolved and the investigative report has been concluded, the City will have no further comment on this matter.”

    As part of the settlement Gentles will be reemployed by the city but only for a limited time in the fire prevention bureau.



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