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Union calls for fire chief's resignation

Accused of using racial slur

Accused of using racial slur

July 18, 2006|by DON AINES

FAYETTEVILLE, PA.

The union representing paid paramedics and emergency medical technicians of the Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Department is calling for the resignation of Chief Chuck Bumbaugh after he used a racial slur during a July 10 meeting.

Bumbaugh used the word during a discussion on junior firefighters doing firehouse chores, according to a July 14 press release from Local 777 of the International Associations of EMTs and Paramedics.

"I don't want the junior members doing sweeping floors like a n-----," Bumbaugh said at the meeting, according to the union release. It stated that an emergency meeting of the (fire department's) board of directors was held July 12 at which the board "elected only to request an apology from the Fire Chief."

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"This is ridiculous. Someone needs to step in here. As a union that supports and defends equality, we are forced to call for Chief Bumbaugh's resignation and make it clear that, while the Board of Directors may support his racism, we, as EMS professionals, do not," Local 777 President Jeremy Jeffcoat was quoted as saying in the letter.

Jeffcoat, whom Bumbaugh said is an EMT with the department, did not return two telephone messages left for him Monday.

"I can't take it back. I said it and it was stupid," Bumbaugh, who was appointed chief about 1 1/2 months ago, said Monday. He disputed the wording in the press release, but admitted using the racial pejorative.

"I'm man enough to accept responsibility for my actions," he said.

"I did not say it in a racist or bigoted manner," said Bumbaugh, a member of the department for 27 years. Bumbaugh said he has apologized to black members of the department.

"I believe he made a dumb remark at the wrong time," said James Lowery, a life member of the department who is black. "He's called me personally and apologized ... I think when he apologized to me, he was sincere."

"It was definitely, without question, an inappropriate statement, but was not done with meanness, bitterness or hatred," said Raymond Rotz, president of the fire department's board of directors. Ironically, he said, the remark was made at a meeting on "harmonious operations of the department."

"There have been other allegations of inappropriate behavior at the department since Chief Bumbaugh took office, including an ongoing investigation into child labor law violations and whether the Board of Directors acted appropriately in their appointment of Chief Bumbaugh," the union release stated. The release said a captain with the department also resigned over the racial remark.

Rotz said Bumbaugh's July 10 comment came during a discussion relating to the presence of a 14-year-old junior firefighter at the evacuation of the Lincoln Dell Mobile Home Park during flooding last month. The boy, whom Bumbaugh said is his nephew and the son of the department vice president, was among four firefighters who became temporarily stranded by the rising waters.

Bumbaugh said his remark was in response to comments made about the duties of junior members. He said the boy was qualified to ride an emergency vehicle, but went into the mobile home park against orders.

"I was trying to protect the integrity of the junior membership program," Bumbaugh said. The department needs to encourage young people to join by giving them responsibility, he said.

Rotz said the department checked with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry and "their comment to us was there does not appear to be any violations" stemming from the Lincoln Dell incident.

"They are the governing body of the department," Rotz said when asked about whether the board acted appropriately in appointing Bumbaugh in June.

"It's internal bickering," Rotz said of the dispute within the fire department. Some members are objecting to efforts to restore discipline and order that have eroded in recent years, both he and Bumbaugh said.

"The department is going through division ... Ours is now a dysfunctional family," said Lowery, who described himself as "pro-department."

The hardest job for Bumbaugh now, Lowery said, will be facing the public.

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