LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A fraternal organization of Black firefighters is objecting to a demand for documents filed by a white firefighter who is suing the city, alleging he a suffered backlash in 2017 when he complained that a Black colleague had harassed him by threatening to drop a bomb on him.
Firefighter James Sharlein's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges discrimination, harassment and retaliation, and that some of the alleged misconduct was racially motivated. Also named as a defendant is the female firefighter, Ta'Ana Mitchell.
Last June, Sharlein's attorneys requested from the Black firefighter group, the Stentorians, among other things the minutes from the group's meetings from 2010 to the present as well as the identities of members and officers of the organization during that same time period. Mitchell is a member of the Stentorians.
``The case involving Mr. Sharlein vs. the LAFD has nothing to do with the Stentorians,'' the group's president, Gerald Durant, states in a sworn declaration filed Wednesday. ``The request for documents being sought by this subpoena is overbroad and harassing. In fact, it is an attempt to infiltrate our organization with no legal basis to do so.''
The Stentorians' funding is limited and it is ``unfortunate we have to spend our limited resources fighting this baseless subpoena seeking irrelevant documents dated back to 2010, when even by their own admission the relevant events took place in 2017,'' Durant says.
The Stentorians is a charitable organization that is independent from LAFD, Durant says.
``We have no ability to make decisions on behalf of the LAFD,'' according to Durant.
The group also objects in their court papers to the plaintiff's characterization of the Stentorians as ``an activist organization whose stated agenda is to promote the recruitment, hiring and promotion of Blacks by and in the LAFD in preference to whites and other races,'' saying such wording is ``distasteful.''
The Stentorians further state in their court papers that the organization was founded to ``address the discrimination and segregation challenges in the LAFD'' and that there currently are more than 500 men and women are members.
``The Stentorians have supported Ms. Mitchell as she is a member of an organization that seeks to promote equality and fairness throughout the fire service,'' the group states in its court papers.
A hearing on the Stentorians motion is scheduled Monday before Judge Monica Bachner.
Sharlein worked at Fire Station 50 when Mitchell was assigned there in December 2017 as a probationary firefighter, according to his suit filed in December 2018. That same month, she began making inappropriate remarks about him, including ``I wanted to drop a bomb on Sharlein'' and ``If he was a girl, I would have beat his (epithet),'' both of which were made in the presence of the plaintiff and an LAFD supervisor, the suit alleges.
Mitchell also said she wanted to sock Sharlein in the face and that her brother, who recently was released from jail, wanted to beat him up, according to the complaint.
Mitchell told Black members of the LAFD command staff that the plaintiff was harassing her, an allegation she knew was untrue, the suit says.
In his own sworn declaration, Sharlein says he filed a report with the LAPD in June 2018 regarding Mitchell's alleged behavior.
``I filed this criminal complaint because I believed that Mitchell had committed multiple criminal acts, including crimes regarding bomb threats, threatening to blow up a fire station, threatening to blow me up...,'' Sharlein says
In a letter to then-LAFD Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas, a copy of which is included in his declaration, Sharlein says Mitchell was interviewed by a television news station and said she had been subjected to ``systemic racism and sexism'' within the LAFD.
``Why is she saying these things she knows are not true?,'' Sharlein asks. ``Most importantly, why is she allowed to continue to harass and make false and misleading statements.''
LAFD management knew or should have known of Mitchell's alleged misconduct, but did not stop it even after Sharlein complained, according to the lawsuit.
Instead of helping Sharlein, LAFD management denied him promotions to favored positions and transferred him to less favorable and ``potentially more dangerous'' work locations, the suit alleges.
Sharlein also alleges that he was denied chances to earn overtime pay, falsely accused of spreading gossip and rumors about another firefighter and subjected to improper investigations.
A ``substantial motivating reason'' for the city and LAFD to subject Sharlein to adverse employment conditions was his race and gender, the suit alleges.