JACKSONVILLE — A fire safety inspector accused of falsifying records has lost an unrelated discrimination lawsuit against the city of Jacksonville.
Judge Timothy Corrigan ruled on Aug. 28 in favor of the city of Jacksonville in a case before the U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division. Marcel White, a fire safety inspector who is African-American, alleged discrimination by the city of Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department.
White, employed as a firefighter since 1994 with the city, was not only racially discriminated against but harassed and subjected to a hostile work environment, according to the 2012 lawsuit. He claimed that the hostile work environment stemmed from complaints he filed alleging harassment.
White worked as fire safety inspector after receiving his state inspector’s license in 2002. According to the lawsuit, White's colleague, who is also African-American and the quality assurance officer for the Fire Prevention Division, became aware of inspectors "not documenting all observed violations".
After investigating the matter, White was found to have approved numerous sites for inspection that in fact had been in violation of safety codes, court documents say. "Additionally, in some commercial blocks White reportedly had fully inspected, he had skipped over some businesses entirely," according to court documents. No other inspectors had such discrepancies.
Due to the charges, the state Fire Marshal began an investigation. White was prohibited from performing safety inspections during this time and was assigned to "Tactical Support." According to the lawsuit, White "suffered a heart attack which he attributes to the stress of the State Fire Marshal investigation."
Criminal charges against White for allegedly falsifying records and for culpable negligence were recommended by investigators to the Attorney General's Office. Charges were never formally filed, according to court documents. The Assistant State Attorney advised instead that the case was a personnel matter and should be handled internally, according to the lawsuit.
White did return to work in 2013 and requested retroactive pay once the matter had been resolved. That request was denied. The fire department argued that White's "reassignment had been justified in light of the State Fire Marshal’s findings."