It's Back To The Local Station For The Fire Chief

The announcement came earlier today that the chief of the Houston Fire Department, Phil Boriskie, is resigning his post because of "my desire to return to the station and continue to serve in this great Department," according to his written statement.

Boriskie's sudden desire to return to the station, however, happened surprisingly soon after another unfortunate situation involving Jane Draycott, one of the women firefighters who made allegations of finding racist and sexist graffiti scrawled on their lockers at a fire station during the summer of last year.

According to Joseph Ahmad, an attorney who has represented the firefighter since she found the graffiti, Draycott returned to work last week -- the first time she's been back since summer -- where she was met by Boriskie and other firefighters.

"She went back expecting to do her job again," Ahmad tells Hair Balls. "She expected that there would be some type of meeting where the firefighters were going to be told that, 'Hey, Jane's coming back to work.'"

But after roll call was finished at the station, a firefighter stood up and read a letter that basically said "we don't trust you, we don't like you, we don't want you here," according to Ahmad. He added that there were other "harmful and hurtful" things said by other firefighters.

"The chief indicated that he didn't know [about the letter]," Ahmad says. "If that's the case, it seems to me that it's unfortunate that a firefighter would pull a stunt like that in front of his own fire chief and put his fire chief in that position."

After the letter was read, Ahmad says, Boriskie and Draycott decided that she wouldn't come back until after an ongoing investigation into the allegations is complete. The real pressure came after Mayor Annise Parker said the incident was a "display of poor judgement" on the part of Boriskie and his command staff.

Boriskie touched on the turmoil at the fire department in his statement:

I have attempted to lead us through those struggles in the way I believe to be right. I am adamant that political and personal agendas are detrimental to this Department and can say with conviction that HFD will prevail from the attacks from unknowing critics.
The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association also released a statement, from its president, Jeff Caynon, concerning Boriskie's resignation. Caynon doesn't sound happy. From the statement:

[Boriskie] is rightly regarded by most Houston firefighters as one of the best chiefs in department history... The truth is, Chief Boriskie was a victim of his good nature and management style, both of which left him vulnerable to political attack. For the past year, the opportunist politicians, extremist activists and disgruntled city employees who recklessly stereotyped local firefighters also treated the chief despicably.
Despite his criticisms of the department, Ahmad almost agrees with Caynon. "We don't know to what extent that [Boriskie] played a role in all of this," he says. "I suspect others played a larger role. I sometimes got that impression that there were things that were out of his control."

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Paul Knight
Contact: Paul Knight