A New York fire captain retired after he was accused of pressuring a Black firefighter to attend a party that mocked Juneteenth with racist imagery, the city's mayor announced Tuesday.
Rochester Fire Capt. Jeffrey Krywy made the decision "before termination proceedings" could begin following an investigation by the city, Mayor Malik Evans said in a statement.
Krywy chose to retire after he was presented with the "determination of the investigation, requiring him to leave the service," Evans said.
The firefighter, Jerrod Jones, filed a notice of claim last week signaling his intention to sue the city of Rochester and the fire department.
In the filing, Jones, a 14-year veteran with the fire department, alleged that Krywy pressured him and two other firefighters to attend a private party with racist and misogynistic imagery.
He said he initially felt uneasy as he arrived at the party and noticed a large cut-out of former President Donald Trump, as it was against department rules to attend partisan political events, the filing said.
It said Jones "became completely shocked," however, when he noticed there were two large Juneteenth celebration flags decorating the lawn with buckets of KFC fried chicken prominently displayed in “an apparent use of the racist trope recycled by bigots to mock Black Americans.”
The filing said someone at the party also appeared to have been impersonating Monroe County legislator Rachel Barnhart and acting in a sexual manner as the crowd taunted her. Jones could further see “pictures of local democratic politicians on stakes across the grass around the backyard,” according to the filing.
Jones said he raised the issue with a superior and asked that higher-ups address the incident, the filing said. He was shocked, however, when he was assigned to work with the same captain for his next shift four days after he raised the issue, prompting him to pursue further action.
Nate McMurray, Jones' attorney, questioned the decision to allow Krywy to retire, saying in a phone interview Wednesday: “I don’t know, if you don’t get terminated for what he did, what do you get terminated for?
"I just don’t think they’re treating this with the level of urgency that it deserves," he said.
McMurray had also questioned in a tweet Tuesday the likelihood that Krywy would be eligible for a "full pension" after retiring.
"Further, the Mayor says they’ve done an investigation. In other words, 'All good,'" he said.
"But it’s not all good," McMurray said, alleging that Evans had not yet called Jones.
"There are no concrete changes to guarantee it can never happen again," he said. "And my client remains at risk, subject to threats and a hostile workplace, just years away from his own well-earned pension."
Jones said at a news conference outside City Hall last Thursday that the experience had "cut me very deeply."
He said he decided to "speak up" about the incident "because I have two children who maybe one day will aspire to be firefighters, and I don’t want them ... I don’t want them to have to experience what I experienced."
Jones remains on leave because of emotional distress and fear of retaliation, McMurray said.
Evans said in his statement that "the underlying issues that bring us to today were not created in the last eight months" as he thanked Fire Chief Felipe Hernandez "for his continued commitment to addressing the structural biases and cultural challenges within the RFD."
He said the city would continue to "share regular updates" about its efforts to "tackle these longstanding issues in the weeks to come."