A Brookline firefighter who was terminated after raising concerns about racism within the department will be reinstated after the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission ruled the town was not justified in firing him.
Gerald Alston, 50, served 11 years with the Brookline Fire Department before he was fired in 2016. Alston claims he was retaliated and discriminated against after he reported a racist incident involving one of his superiors.
In the ruling, the commission said Brookline did not penalize superior officer Paul Pender enough after he used a racial slur in a voicemail left for Alston back in 2010. It also said the town overlooked the retaliation that came after it.
In the ruling, the commission said the town “actively promoted a false narrative that painted Firefighter Alston as a paranoid employee who simply couldn’t ‘move on’ from racist comments.”
The commission ordered Alston to be reinstated without loss of compensation or other rights. His attorney, Brooks Ames, said Alston is due 28 months back pay and will likely be placed on leave with pay indefinitely unless they are able to work out something else with the town.
“These were people you expected more of and the commissioner does a good job of calling out where they fell down,” Ames said.
Alston, who has been out of work since the firing, says he feels vindicated. He sat down with his attorney Monday for an interview with NBC10 Boston.
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“This outlines how I was being treated, that I wasn’t being paranoid, that I wasn’t a liar, that I wasn’t just making things up. This proves it all,” Alston said.
NBC10 Boston reached attorney Douglas Louison by phone, who the town of Brookline hired for representation in the case. He said they strongly disagree with the decision and claims the town had no choice but to fire Alston.
“Mr. Alston refused to return to work despite many efforts by the command staff to ensure that his concerns were met,” Louison said.
Louison would not yet say if the town plans to appeal. He said they are currently reviewing the 83-page-decision and have 30 days to decide.
Alston, who has also filed a suit against the town at the federal level, said he hopes Brookline learns from the ruling.
“Hopefully from this point on it opens up a dialogue and things will start to change,” Alston said.