Aurora Metropolis Council resolves to maintain the dismissed Denver hearth captain on obligation after allegations of mendacity on request
Aurora city council voted not to remove a recently appointed member of the city’s civil service commission after it was revealed that he had been fired from the Denver Fire Department after saying he was retired.
Harold Johnson, a former DFD captain who was dismissed in 2015, was unanimously accepted into the public service commission by the council in February.
The proposal to remove Johnson was made by Councilor Dave Gruber.
“Members of the public service commission, their integrity and their character must be beyond reproach,” said Gruber. “(Johnson) missed the opportunity to clarify the fact that he did not retire and was fired. … We can only take action to remove it. “
The Civil Service Commission is a paid role in the city that has the final say in hiring, firing and disciplining Aurora’s police and fire service personnel.
“I really doubt (Johnson) can be objective in these disciplinary proceedings, and even if he could, I think it affects it,” Councilor Françoise Bergan said. “Anyone who goes in for a disciplinary hearing is likely to sue the city over a decision that was made when it was not in their favor.”
Johnson was fired in 2015 after working at DFD for 21 years. According to the resignation letter, Johnson allegedly violated 13 rules of the department, including negligent performance of duties, lies about domestic affairs, and lewd and disrespectful communication.
The letter described alleged incidents where Johnson delayed putting out a dumpster fire to answer a phone call and used explicit pornographic language when talking to coworkers.
However, Johnson has repeatedly denied all allegations since surfacing in 2015, attributing them to an attempted assassination attempt on a character based on his status as a black person in an almost all-white division and his tendency to engage in racist politics.
Several council members, including councilwoman Nicole Johnston, said they spoke to Johnson about the sacking and believed he was telling the truth.
Johnson, who has lived in Aurora for three years, said he fought his firing and allegations but did not have the resources to open a lawsuit against the department.
“If people don’t have access to legal representation, they can’t defend their character,” said Councilor Crystal Murillo. “I find it difficult to look beyond that.”
Murillo and other council members pointed to racist and economic barriers to the system as possible complications for the situation.
“It questions me whether we can really definitely say that (Johnson’s resignation) was not what he claims,” said Alison Coombs. “I don’t think that we should allow a person’s character to be murdered and participate in it based on only partial information.”
Some of the council members said their problem was not the layoff, but the fact that Johnson described himself as retired on his application, claiming it was dishonest.
Gruber even went so far as to describe the action as “falsifying information” in Johnson’s application and during his interview.
“(Johnson) may have been wrongly terminated, but that’s not the point,” Councilor Curtis Gardner said. “The point is, he lied on an application. This measure would result in the termination of a regular city employee. “
On the application, Johnson did not explicitly claim that he had left the DFD, but merely stated his current status as retired. According to the council members, he was not specifically asked whether he had been fired.
Councilors, Angela Lawson and Juan Marcano, strongly advocated removing Johnson from the commission at previous meetings, but voted to keep him on Monday after discussing questions about his dismissal and retirement status.
“What he told me was compelling because I had similar situations with people in my own family, people in my groups of friends,” said Marcano. “We know the department has a history of racial discrimination and a lack of representation.”
Some councilors, including Johnston, Murillo, and Lawson, even argued that Johnson’s troubled history with DFD made him better suited for a position on the civil service commission.
“I think it will be interesting to see someone in this role who has personally dealt with some of these systemic issues to be part of the decision-making process that is moving forward,” said Murillo.
The final vote was 5-6, with Gruber, Bergan, Gardner, Councilor Marsha Berzins, and Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman voting for Johnson’s removal from the Civil Service Commission. The council would have needed a super major to remove Johnson.
Coffman made a heated statement at the end of the discussion on Monday when it was clear that the votes were in favor of Johnson staying on the commission.
“(Johnson) is absolutely unqualified for this position,” said Coffman. “Someone who has virtually no integrity may do a great sales job with some of the members here over the phone, but they have no integrity and you choose to believe them now.”
During Monday’s session, the council also voted to push forward two ordinances to exempt menstrual products from taxation and introduce a temporary cap on food delivery fees in the city.
Both regulations were passed unanimously and will now have to pass a final vote in the Council at the next meeting on March 22nd.