When Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez
tapped one of his close confidantes to lead the county's fire
department, he ignored 29 other applicants to pick a guy who once booted African-Americans out of Miami's
No one was interviewed -- not even
Haitian-American Karls Paul-Noel, who was interim chief until the
mayor appointed William "Shorty" Bryson this past April 18. When
Gimenez was Miami city manager, he also chose Bryson to lead the
Miami fire department. Bryson retired in 2009. He did not apply for
the county job, but he's the mayor's man.
"I needed someone with a proven track record," Gimenez said. "He has it and he was available." However, Bryson is not without controversy.
In 1992, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that Bryson discriminated when he expelled from the city's fire union 62 black firefighters who had protested unfair promotions. Bryson was then union president. The 62 had joined a rival labor organization, the Progressive Firefighters Association, which tackles racial equality in local fire departments.
Those who were expelled lost union medical and dental benefits. The EEOC ordered Local 587 to reinstate the African-Americans and compensate them for their unpaid benefits.
Gimenez insisted Bryson will be a "good fire chief for all firefighters regardless of race." The mayor also noted that Miami's current leader, Maurice Kemp, who is African-American, worked alongside Bryson for many years without a problem.
"I found him to be fair," Kemp said. "He supported me as the next fire chief when he retired. He did not try to block my ascent."
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Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Keith Bell, current president of the PFA, says the public needs to know Bryson's history as union president. "He spearheaded the effort to get all the blacks out of the union," Bell says. "The way the mayor went about this was very unprofessional. There were some really good candidates for chief."