Council Member Says Racism is Prevalent in Pasadena Firefighters Union

Tyron Hampton said the city manager should have consulted with the entire council before reassigning Fire Chief Washington. – File photo by Terry Miller/Beacon Media News

By Terry Miller

Pasadena Councilman Tyron Hampton said he disagrees with City Manager Steve Mermell’s decision to reassign Fire Chief Bertral Washington. So too, does fellow council member John Kennedy who expressed outrage at the last council meeting.

Hampton said the Pasadena Firefighters Union, which he equated to a fraternity, intentionally put pressure on the city manager for unknown reasons but feels that racism is indeed very much a part of that union’s culture.

Hampton said that prior to Washington’s appointment as fire chief, 90 percent of the graduating classes of firefighters were Anglo-Saxon men. During Washington’s tenure, that figure changed radically, Hampton told the Pasadena Independent on Wednesday.

“Since Bertral Washington took office, that percentage became balanced. More African Americans, women and other minorities are now included in the fire department.”

Councilman Hampton said the reassignment is simply the first stop on a pathway to his ultimate termination.

While he’s not calling for Mermell’s resignation, he believes that council should have been consulted on the matter. “If there is something in his personnel file, I can understand the decision the city manager took. However, I don’t know.” Hampton stated.

When asked if the item will be agendized, as Mayor Tornek had alluded to, Hampton said he doesn’t think that’ll happen.

Calls for comment from Kennedy and the Firefighters Union were not immediately returned.

An email to Washington for comment netted this automatic reply: “I am currently out of the office. During my absence, Deputy Fire Chief Bryan Frieders will be acting on my behalf and can be reached at”

February 26, 2020

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Terry Miller

3 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Council Member Says Racism is Prevalent in Pasadena Firefighters Union”

  1. Ricchard Luczyski says:

    Finally got my sample ballot and have marked my choices and today went to a voting center that wasn’t busy got help getting started with the knew
    system and found that the worry is over. Now my hope is that people get out to vote. Pasadena has 88304 registered voters lets see how many come out to vote.

  2. Richard Luczyski says:

    I had one thought that Now News hasn’t published and that is the possibility that the now acting fire chief plans to retire soon and would like a higher pension benefit if he were chief. So he take the job the real chief takes another position with the city managers office for an unknown assignment keeping his present pay. Time goes by and the acting chief retires and the assignment for the real chief is over and he goes back to his old job. Now there is some fuss but could there be truth to my comment?

  3. William Meurer says:

    As a local Pasadena business owner, I have known City Manager Steve Mermel for many years. He is a man of high ethics and integrity. Politicizing based on race the the reassignment of Chief Washington before the facts are know is irresponsible. I urge Council Members engaged in this type of public comment to cease and desist until they can be briefed on the background of this change either in an executive session of the City Council or privately. As an employer myself for several decades, there are specific legal guidelines that govern what an employer can disclose about any employee’s medical or job performance issues. Looking at the generous salaries and pensions that has become harder and harder for the City to afford that are granted to public employees like Chief Washington, I can’t say that I’m going to shed any tears for these public employees. We lost a great Police Chief in Phil Sanchez because one of his colleagues was selling guns out of his house in Altadena. We have many more pressing challenges for our City Council like the behavioral problems that some of our youth are developing due to the permissive use of cell phones and other computer devices used in the private and public school system.

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