BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A new lawsuit filed this week in New York State Supreme Court alleges a culture of racism, discrimination and nepotism in the Buffalo Fire Department.
There are multiple defendants named in the lawsuit – including Mayor Byron Brown, Fire Commissioner William Renaldo and other department leaders, like Battalion Chief Robert Bourgeois, who oversees the Fire Academy.
The three plaintiffs are former recruits; a Black man, a Hispanic man and a Polish man in his 40s. Each say they faced discrimination for their race, ethnicity or age. In one account, the Black recruit said a fellow firefighter used a racial slur against him.
Their claims are being backed by former Buffalo Fire Deputy Commissioner Shannon Street.
In a sworn affidavit, Street said “Throughout my career, I have observed systemic racism and politicization at the BFD Academy, which is charged with the training of new cadets. I have observed great preference being shown to people with family ties to the BFD, and worthy candidates drummed out of the Academy who were minorities and women and who were not politically connected.”
Street, who was appointed as Deputy Commissioner by Brown in 2018, said he met with the mayor in his office at City Hall.
“I brought several particularly egregious specific instances of racial and gender prejudice and political favoritism to His Honor’s attention,” Street wrote in the affidavit. “I was demoted from Deputy Commissioner and returned to my civil service rank of Captain, where I finished out my career and promptly retired.”
News 4 reached out to city officials on this lawsuit. In a statement, a spokesperson said they had yet to be served and typically do not comment on pending litigation.