Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Council Confirms Nash Emotional Debate Precedes 16-3 Vote

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Council Confirms Nash Emotional Debate Precedes 16-3 Vote

Article excerpt

Firefighter Winston Nash was confirmed as head of fire

department training last night, ending an emotional debate among

City Council members that touched on racial division and

criticism of his work ethic and leadership ability.

His appointment, the most controversial to come before the

council since Mayor John Delaney took office, was opposed by

many veteran firefighters.

Nash, a 24-year veteran, twice filed racial discrimination

lawsuits against the fire department, challenging the city

promotions exams. He is an African-American.

In 1988, a federal appeal court ordered his promotion to the

rank of lieutenant. A lawsuit Nash filed after he was denied a

promotion to fire combat captain was dismissed last year. A

federal jury has dismissed his accusations that nine

firefighters retaliated against him for his lawsuits.

An association that represents district and battalion chiefs

opposed his appointment, saying he lacked supervisory

experience.

The council confirmed the appointment 16-3. Supporters cited

his academic credentials and defended his right to challenge

what he viewed as an unfair promotions system. Several of the

council's black members said the opposition was personal in

nature and seemed to reflect racial division.

"When this council has approved three or four Caucasian

applicants to the fire department without a problem, it does

raise questions," said Councilwoman Denise Lee, chairwoman of

the council's Rules Committee, which recommended the

confirmation.

Opposed were Councilmen Mike Hogan, Terry Wood and Max Leggett.

Leggett is a retired battalion chief.

Wood, whose father is a retired chief of fire operations, said

he did not think the controversy was an ethnic issue. He cited

five days immediately following a large petroleum tank fire in

which Nash called in sick. …

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