AURORA, Colo. — A high-ranking fire department leader in Aurora has been fired after an internal investigation found he made racist comments, misused personal days and retaliated against a subordinate.
According to a spokesperson for the city of Aurora who said that as of March 1, Stephen McInerny is no longer an employee of the city.
McInerny was second in command with Aurora Fire Rescue (AFR) as the deputy chief of operations. He got the job two years after being fired from his position as fire chief in Naples, Florida, in 2016.
He was the subject of a months-long independent investigation that looked into complaints from other people within the department.
According to the investigation, witnesses reported hearing McInerny refer to an Indian job candidate with racially derogatory language.
Also, one of McInerny's subordinates expressed concerns about how AFR kept up with certification among some of the people working on the department's HazMat team, another report says. That person claims McInerny retaliated against them for sharing those concerns by reassigning them and attempting to deny a leave request. The report found that those allegations were likely true.
According to the investigation report, another of the complaints against McInerny revolves around his use of personal leave. The report says McInerny likely did not properly account for some days he took off for personal trips.
Two city workers, who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation, McInerny was also accused of taking advantage of his position of power and bringing his daughter to multiple fire scenes and sometimes crime scenes.
One of the city employees who did not want to be named shared photos of the girl at fire scenes said McInerny posted on Facebook and later deleted.
AFR was also notified of accusations of racially insensitive posts made by McInerny. One post McInerny shared referred to protestors as "whiners."
The Colorado Black Professional Firefighters said in a statement they "are disappointed but not surprised by Operations Chief Stephen McInerny's Facebook post." They went on to write, “given our nation’s social climate and the recent event with Elijah McClain in the City of Aurora, we feel it is irresponsible for anyone holding a high position in any organization to make such a post.”
McInerny is also accused of making scheduling decisions based on gender.
“I noticed on the staffing board in the staffing office there were red stickers, little red stickers placed on some individuals’ names. And I started looking at it closer and all the names were females, female firefighters on the job," said a retired female firefighter who did not want her name used for this story.
She and several other of her colleagues said they were told by McInerny the dots were put there to "disperse" women throughout the shifts. Firefighters said the dots were taken down in the spring of 2019 but felt the department never addressed the underlying issue.
“There’s a lot of people that don’t think women belong In the fire service and I know even to this day, even though there’s more females in the fire service, we’re still scrutinized, we’re still watched, we’re still put under a microscope," said the retired Aurora firefighter. "But I didn’t think that we were dispersing people based on their gender or their race or anything like that anymore; I thought we had progressed beyond that."
While in Florida, the NBC affiliate in Fort Myers reported he was accused of "letting buildings burn" to convince city council his department needed more funding.
After he was fired, McInerny sued the City of Naples, Florida and their Firefighter's Union in 2017. He claimed they spread false information that led to his firing.
9NEWS attempted to contact McInerny by phone call, knocking on his door for a story on the evening of Sept. 28, and then by email for the story on Feb. 28. After an email was sent directly to McInerny, AFR asked that only the public information officer be contacted. McInerny never responded.
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