City's Report On HFD Allegations Isn't The Last Word

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At a press conference earlier today, the City of Houston announced that an investigation -- conducted by lawyers hired by the city -- was complete and the law firms were ready with suggestions on how to improve the fire department.

If anyone has forgotten, it was a tough 2009 for the Houston Fire Department. It started in February, after a black firefighter saw a noose hanging in a captain's locker. That stayed fairly quiet, but when the fire department didn't discipline that captain, all hell broke loose. Then a couple women firefighters, Jane Draycott and Paula Keyes, found several unfortunate messages spray painted on their lockers.

Hair Balls hasn't seen the specific results of the investigation, but according to the report linked above, investigators found that while there may be isolated incidents of racism and sexism, those things weren't "pervasive" in the department.

"Here we are, four days before the election, and they roll this out, saying basically that everything is okay?" Joseph Ahmad, an attorney representing the two women firefighters, tells Hair Balls. "It all looks a little bizarre to me."

Apparently, the lawyers didn't investigate whether any specific allegations were true, so the results don't have much bearing on the case involving Draycott and Keyes. But, unfortunately, the team looking into those specific allegations, from the fire department's Office of Inspector General, hasn't finished its investigation.

"They said it would take 60 days and that was five months ago," Ahmad says. "It's getting to be bad. I don't know what excuse they could have to wait this long, but I think it's an attempt by the fire department to gloss over this as much as possible."

Hair Balls contacted the inspector general office, but the lieutenant heading the Draycott/Keyes investigation was gone for the day. Alicia Whitehead, a spokeswoman for the fire department, says, "There's no word" about when the investigation will be complete.

According to Ahmad, Keyes has returned to work at a different station, but Draycott decided to leave after attempting to go back to work. There were people inside the department, Ahmad says, who alleged that Draycott was responsible for the graffiti.

"There was no attempt by the fire department to come out and say that wasn't true," Ahmad says. "I think that speaks pretty loudly."

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