Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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Former Fire Chief Sues St. Louis in Race Claim

ST. LOUIS (CN) - A former city fire chief claims St. Louis and Mayor Francis Slay forced him to retire because he is black. Sherman George says he was forced out for refusing to follow an illegal order to make hasty promotions based on unreliable tests.

George worked for the city Fire Department from 1967 until Oct. 1, 2007 without any incidents or discipline, he says in his complaint in City Court.

George says he got a letter on Sept. 5, 2007 from Sam Simon, the city's former Director of Public Safety, ordering him to fill all vacant battalion chief positions and all vacant captain positions by Sept. 14, 2007 or he would be disciplined. Simon resigned shortly after sending the letter and was replaced by Charles Bryson, who wrote another letter to George on Sept. 12, 2007 reiterating the demands, the suit states.

George said the orders were illegal and that there was no way to determine if the candidates were qualified from the tests they took.

Bryson, acting under Mayor Slay's orders, demoted George to deputy fire chief on Oct. 1, 2007 for failing to make the promotions.

George says he considered the demotion a constructive termination and retired on Oct. 13. He says the demotion was geared to make his position so unbearable as to force him to retire and was racially motivated because he was replaced by a Caucasian who had been previously disciplined and who was under investigation for breaches of department protocol.

George seeks reinstatement, back pay and benefits and is represented by Thomas Blumenthal. Bryson was also named as a defendant.

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