City to investigate complaint of racism against firefighter

A Seymour man is asking city officials to investigate an incident where he says a city firefighter made “offensive” and “racist” comments.

Bucky Foist told Seymour City Council members Dec. 27 he recently lost his job at a local restaurant because he confronted the fireman and called the fire department to report what happened.

Foist did not name the fireman during the public meeting but said the city should not tolerate bigotry from any civil servant.

Mayor Craig Luedeman agreed and said the board of public works and safety would ultimately have the final decision on what, if any, action is taken after an investigation is conducted.

“I don’t want it to look like we aren’t doing anything,” Luedeman said. “But the board of works is actually the group that would hear this. They are actually the governing function of the policy of the city.”

Because there is no fire complaint review board in place, Luedeman said the investigation will follow protocol established by the city’s police complaint review board.

The complaint board, which likely will consist of two firefighters, one city council representative and two citizens, will be charged with making a determination regarding the validity of the complaint and making a non-binding recommendation concerning disciplinary action, if warranted, to Fire Chief Brad Lucas.

Lucas would then bring a recommendation to the board of works if the punishment is more than five days suspension. State law allows fire chiefs to suspend firefighters for up to 40 hours without board approval.

“I’ll do whatever the board of works asks me to do,” Lucas said.

The board of works consists of the mayor, Councilman Jim Rebber and Larry Sunbury.

Luedeman said he expects to take the first steps during Thursday’s board of works meeting.

“I appreciate you stepping forward because we don’t tolerate this type of stuff in the city,” Luedeman told Foist during the Dec. 27 council meeting.

Lucas said the fire department has a policy on general conduct of firefighters, but it doesn’t specifically address racial comments made publicly by personnel.

“It has never been an issue because we haven’t had to deal with it,” he said. “We’ll look at what we need to do in the future (with creating a more specific policy). That’s why all policies are made because something happened.”

Foist said the incident occurred after Election Day, when the fireman came into The Flying Pink Pig BBQ where Foist worked to pick up an order of food for the fire department.

Foist said the fireman was in uniform when he came in and said, “Thank God for Trump, huh?” to which Foist said he asked, “Why do you say that?”

The fireman then said, “Well, because of you illegal immigrants,” Foist said.

“I kind of chuckled and said, ‘Well, I don’t know how you can tell I’m half-Mexican, but I was born in this country,’” Foist said. “So I said, ‘I’m really not understanding your comment,’ and he said, ‘Well, it’ll just help.’”

After walking away and getting the order together, Foist said he tried to get the fireman out of the restaurant as quickly as possible.

“He stood in the dining room and kept rattling on about illegal immigrants and some other stuff,” Foist said. “As he was leaving, he said, ‘Sorry for all the comments. It’s just a Trump kind of day.’”

After the fireman left, Foist said he called the fire department and identified himself and where he worked but said he wasn’t calling on behalf of his place of employment.

“He’s a fireman for this community, in uniform and running at the mouth like that in front of the public, and I just wanted to let them know that reflects poorly on the fire department and this community,” Foist said.

Foist said whoever he talked to thanked him for calling and said they would say something about it. But since then, nothing has happened, Foist said.

“I lost my job for calling the fire department,” Foist said. “It’s my understanding that any time you put on an EMT uniform, a nurse’s uniform, a firefighter’s uniform or a police officer’s uniform, your personal life and personal views are to stay at the door.”

Foist said a firefighter should be someone he can trust with his life in the event of a fire or other emergency, but now, he questions that because of the comments the firefighter made.

Read the full story in Wednesday’s Tribune and at tribtown.com.

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.