NEW BRITAIN – The fire chief has been put on paid administrative leave following claims of racial bias within the department.
The mayor said these allegations have been going on for a while now and she is putting her foot down to look into it.
The chief’s paid leave goes into effect Friday and the mayor said she will conduct her own investigation and ask her own questions.
Former fire chief Mark Carr died from an illness in 2014. He was the city’s first black fire chief and Ronald Davis with the New Britain NAACP said he opened doors for females and minorities.
When current fire chief Thomas Ronalter took over, there were claims of him refusing to hang a picture of Mark Carr up on the wall with the former fire chiefs.
“Why wouldn’t you do something as simple as put up a photo on a wall?” said Mayor Erin Stewart.
It was until a young firefighter, Daylon Hudson, brought it to the attention of the mayor.
“There have been some insensitivities, definitely some racial insensitivities by him, not thinking about race when he’s making decisions or transfers or decisions affecting the entire department,” added Stewart.
“It brings history back up to you, that painful history that’s happened in the past,” said Ronald Davis of the New Britain NAACP.
Chief Ronalter has been with the department for 36 years and was appointed in 2013 by the former mayor. Today, he released a statement to back up his actions and said ….
“I detest racism and all of the harm it causes. While I have made mistakes, I have never treated people – firefighters or otherwise – differently based on the color of their skin. I embrace a diverse workforce and believe it benefits both our employees and the citizens we project.”
The mayor said she has hired an attorney and a diversity trainer to look further into the matter.
“We’re not going to tolerate any perception of racial bias or racism in the department,” added Stewart.
While these claims have been taking place for awhile, the mayor said she did not even know about them until March and it is because in the note of allegations, firefighters said they feared retaliation.
Eventually, Ronalter hung Mark Carr’s picture on the wall but even then, his refusal has gotten many people to remain bitter.
“He’s racist. He’s fighting to allow this kind of behavior to overcome our country. We’re fighting against this, he’s saying it’s okay. Like, they don’t feel it,” added Davis.
The mayor has appointed Deputy Chief Peter Margentino to be in charge but she also said if she finds racial bias, the chief could be terminated.