A black Montebello firefighter had a white supervisor who used the N-word openly and chastised him for small matters such as his wearing of a beanie when working out, his attorney told a jury Wednesday.An attorney for the city of Montebello, which was sued by firefighter Vernon Creswell, countered that the battalion chief who used the racial slur was terminated and that the plaintiff’s lawyers do not have enough evidence to support their racial discrimination claim.
The lawyers’ opening statements to the Los Angeles Superior Court panel and their accounts of Creswell’s treatment by the department differed sharply.
The plaintiff joined the MFD in October 2008 after transferring from the Compton Fire Department and for a while was the only black firefighter in the department, said his lawyer, Gregory W. Smith.
Smith said his client originally thought Battalion Chief Greg Mowad was ignorant after using the N-word when referring to what he called “bad blacks” while distinguishing them from “good blacks” during remarks made in August 2012.
However, in June 2013, while sitting with other firefighters at a fire station kitchen, Mowad told the gathering that he and his son had seen Creswell with a woman in Long Beach who was not the plaintiff’s wife, Smith said.
Mowad acknowledged to those present that both he and his son referred to Creswell by the N-word, Smith said. Mowad’s remarks were later relayed to Creswell by a captain present at the table, according to Smith.
Smith said Mowad and Battalion Chief Rick Linsky were “very powerful” members of the department who, along with others, unfairly criticized Creswell, a devoted Seattle Seahawks fan, for using leave time to attend the team’s games even though there were no internal restrictions preventing him from doing so.
Mowad and Linsky once went into a “tirade” about Creswell’s use of leave time by saying he should be “taken out back and have the crap beaten out of him to teach him a lesson,” according to Smith’s court papers.
Smith said Creswell also was singled out by Mowad and Linsky for wearing a beanie at an outside gym while working out because the pair thought it was not a good representation of the MFD.
“They thought he made the department look like thugs from Compton,” Smith told jurors.
The department later enacted a policy allowing beanies to be worn only in cold weather, said Smith, who also alleged that Creswell has been denied training and advancement opportunities.
But lawyer Irma Rodriguez Moisa, on behalf of the city of Montebello, said the department dealt swiftly with Mowad’s inappropriate comments even though he denied ever using the racial slur.
She also said Creswell “pushes the edges of the rules” and puts his own interests ahead of those of other firefighters.
She said no other firefighter in the history of the department wore a beanie at the gym, where MFD members are seen by members of the public and expected to dress in a way that shows the department in a positive light.
Moisa said Creswell has had a successful career with the MFD and received pay raises. She said that he was only denied special training if he had not earned the right to receive it.
— City News Service
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