KENNEWICK, Wash. (AP) — A former Kennewick fire chief is suing the southeast Washington city in federal court, saying he was fired because he is Black and opposed discriminatory practices toward racial minorities and women.
Former Kennewick Fire Chief Vince Beasley worked for the Kennewick Fire Department for 40 years, including as chief from 2014 until 2019. He seeks a jury trial, lost pay, and emotional harm and punitive damages, The Tri-City Herald reported.
Beasley’s attorney, Beth Bloom of Seattle, said Kennewick City Manager Marie Mosley, who is named as a defendant, illegally held Beasley to a higher standard than white employees.
Beasley met more than 90% of the city’s defined performance goals from 2016 until 2019, which was above numbers that Mosley called “exceptional,” according to the U.S. District Court lawsuit.
He received numerous awards and grants and improved the city’s firefighting capabilities, according to an independent agency rating, which the city touted in a news release three months before he was fired, according to the lawsuit.
In late 2018 Beasley began to openly oppose the city’s alleged racist and sexist culture and hiring and retention practices, which favored white men, the lawsuit said. He encouraged Mosley to “serve more than just white residents” and demanded that she “hire more than just white men for open positions.”
Beasley is the only Black firefighter hired in Kennewick in more than 100 years, according to the lawsuit.
Mosley reacted to Beasley raising concerns “with cold silence and by becoming standoffish,” the lawsuit said.
In his annual performance evaluation in March 2019, his 2018 performance was evaluated negatively, with no mention of his successes, according to the lawsuit.
“Chief Beasley speaking up and being assertive about discrimination in late 2018 triggered racial biases,” the lawsuit said. “Ms. Mosley evaluated Chief Beasley’s performance differently in part due to his race, whether she was aware of it or not.”
In the months before Beasley was fired, Mosley began giving him new, excessive and unreasonable work assignments, according to the lawsuit. On Sept. 3, 2019, the lawsuit alleges that Mosley demanded that Beasley resign or she would fire him. He refused to resign and on Sept. 18 was fired, according to the lawsuit.
The city of Kennewick said in a statement this week that “the reasons for Mr. Beasley’s departure are well documented in the media and public record.”
The city also repeated a statement from September 2019, saying Mosley had been working with Beasley for an extended period of time on performance and leadership concerns.
City officials said at the time that they couldn’t release sensitive personnel information.