Published May 04. 2012 4:00AM
New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio has made the right decision to rehire firefighter Alfred Mayo with back pay. The city faced legal exposure if it continued to persist in denying Mr. Mayo employment. But more importantly, it is morally the correct thing to do.
Mr. Mayo deserves much credit for his persistence in the face of adversity. So too does the state NAACP for its strong advocacy on his behalf. Credit should also go to state Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London, whose demands for justice led to an investigation of the Connecticut Fire Academy. That review, directed by Reuben F. Bradford, commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, showed that Mr. Mayo was the subject of unfair treatment at the academy. Erroneous academy reports about Mr. Mayo's conduct apparently played a large role in Fire Chief Ron Samul's recommendation that the city terminate the recruit.
While the state investigation did not explicitly conclude that Mr. Mayo, a black man, was the object of discriminatory treatment, the implication was clear. He was the only black recruit in the class.
Recognition should also go to Day news columnist David Collins, who first reported on the questionable circumstances surrounding the firing of Mr. Mayo, the first black firefighter hired by the city since 1978. Mr. Collins' dogged reporting and tough commentary assured that Mr. Mayo's plight would not be ignored.
At a news conference Thursday, Mayor Finizio said the results of the academy probe played a pivotal role in his decision to reverse course and offer Mr. Mayo his job. The last outstanding issue was pending motor vehicle violations against Mr. Mayo. The mayor had previously taken the position that a license suspension would make Mr. Mayo ineligible. Mayor Finizio said he has since learned that in the past public safety officers did not lose jobs because of a first license suspension.
In any event, Mr. Mayo says his license is not in jeopardy.
Mayor Finizio said among his goals will be to seek greater racial and gender diversity in the department. In other actions, he has demonstrated a commitment to civil rights in city government. With the Mayo decision the mayor has taken an important step by righting a wrong.