Union to decide whether to support 6 fired Miami firefighters who want jobs back

Firefighters accused of defacing colleague's photos, placing noose in office

By Erica Rakow - Reporter, Neki Mohan - Anchor/Reporter

MIAMI - A hearing was held Tuesday morning for six city of Miami firefighters who were fired over sexually explicit and racially offensive conduct.

The lieutenant who found his family photos defaced and a noose made of twine in his office also attended the hearing, asking the firefighters' union to stand by the city's decision to terminate the men.

Several of the former firefighters are expected to attend the hearing later in the day with their attorneys to address the board.

At the Miami Firefighters Union Hall, Lt. Robert Webster was surrounded by other firefighters and members of the NAACP.

The union executive board is reviewing the request from the six firefighters, who believe they were wrongfully terminated.

Authorities said Webster found a noose made of twine placed over his belongings at work in September.

There were also drawings of explicit symbols on several of his family photos on his desk.

"The victim is not just myself and my family," Webster said. "It's the people in the community who look like me and my family, because, if this is what they feel about me, who wears the same uniform that they wear, how do they truly feel about the people whose homes they're welcomed into at the time when they're most needing someone to care for them?"

The city fired six of Webster's colleagues after the investigation -- Capt. William Bryson, Lt. Alejandro Sese, David Rivera, Harold Santana, Justin Rumbaugh and Kevin Meizoso.

"What I would like is for the decision that was made by the city manager, by the mayor and by our department, directed to stand," Webster said. 

Union board members are reviewing the evidence and each firefighter's discipline, and will determine whether it was just or excessive, according to their involvement in the situation.

"We want them to understand this is a serious incident and to take what they're deciding today very seriously," Capt. Jackson Deglace, president of the Black Professional Firefighters Association, said. 

There are 16-17 board members who will vote on the issue.

If they choose to deny the grievances, the firefighters will remain terminated. If they approve the grievances, the matter will then go to the city and then, most likely, to arbitration.

Webster said there has been an outpouring of support from the community after the incident, but he said he hasn't heard anything from his former colleagues.

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