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Chief Scolded by Mayor for Hurtful Staff Meeting

Chief Scolded by Mayor for Hurtful Staff Meeting

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Houston Chronicle via YellowBrix

January 15, 2010

HOUSTON – On the day that Houston firefighter Jane Draycott returned to Station 54 for the first time after accusing her colleagues of harassment, she was met by the fire chief, his command staff, a psychologist and at least a dozen coworkers for what the chief dubbed a “team building” session.

Instead, according to Draycott, it turned into an “insulting” and “demeaning” confrontation with her male peers that played out in front of the chief. On Thursday, Mayor Annise Parker called the episode a display of “poor judgment” on the part of Fire Chief Phil Boriskie and members of the command staff who were present.

According to Draycott, the men aired rumors and grievances and questioned her sanity. The meeting on Wednesday eventually resulted with her walking off the job again.

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Boriskie told the Houston Chronicle “the purpose of the meeting was to lay down the expectations and the treating of people with respect and professionalism in the transition of Jane coming back.”

But the four-hour session not only raised more questions about the department’s leadership and handling of Draycott’s harassment complaints, but also drew an admonishment from Parker, who called the chief after hearing about the meeting. ‘Hurtful things’

“I do not condone, nor will I tolerate what occurred at Station 54,” Parker’s statement read. “… They tried to conduct a standard debrief that veered in an inappropriate direction. Obviously, this continues to be a very emotional situation that has caused tension all around. My goal is to bring it to an end as quickly as possible.”

Problems at Station 54 started after Draycott and firefighter Paula Keyes were greeted by racist and sexist graffiti scrawled on the walls of their dorm on July 7, three months after the two had complained about continuing harassment from co-workers.

Since then, the matter has been under investigation by the city’s Office of Inspector General. It remains an open investigation.

Boriskie admitted on Thursday some “hurtful things” were said at the meeting.

Draycott said a captain conducted roll call as soon as she arrived at 7 a.m. and then unexpectedly read a prepared statement detailing why he felt unsafe having her return to the station; he urged her to take a transfer.

“Why do you want to come back here when nobody wants you,” Draycott recalled the captain telling her in front of Boriskie and firefighters. “I had my hands over my face, bawling.”