ANITA HASSAN and ZAIN SHAUK
Reprinted with Permission
In her latest run-in with Houston firefighters, Councilwoman Jolanda Jones drew a flurry of criticism over the weekend after she allegedly used obscene language and suggested that firefighters were lazy during a fire station visit on Friday.
Jeff Caynon, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, said Jones made offensive remarks to firefighters while visiting Station 8 downtown Friday. Caynon was told Jones also commented on the facility, suggesting that it was too nice.
Jones did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but a spokesman said the allegations were false, although he did not comment on whether profanity was used at all during the firehouse exchange.
'Cultural Bias' Alleged
Jones, who is serving her second term on the council, has previously been critical of the Houston Fire Department for an alleged culture of racism and sexism. She blasted the department after two female firefighters in 2009 found racist and sexist graffiti scrawled in their quarters at an airport fire station. She has also argued the department had a "cultural bias" that makes the workplace difficult for firefighters.
Caynon, who is African-American, previously clashed with Jones for allegedly calling him a "house Negro" during a discussion about discrimination within the fire department.
"I understand there was a lot of profanity," he said, adding that firefighters were offended that she was not civil with her language and showed little respect for their work.
"The substance of what she said was, 'You guys don't work. You just come in and sit down on your recliners and watch TV all day,' and that's not the case," Caynon said.
Caynon has asked Fire Chief Terry Garrison to order an investigation into Jones' statements.
"This is an obvious misunderstanding," Jones said in a statement released late Saturday. "I accompanied various people on my staff to several city facilities to familiarize them with the services we provide — so that we can do a better job of serving the public."
Jones says she' 'baffled'
Keith Wade, a consultant for the councilwoman, said the visit was part of a "team building" exercise for her staff. Jones did not notify the station of her visit because her group's assignment during that portion of the exercise was to visit "a fire station" using public transportation.
Jones, in her statement, did not directly address the allegation that she had used profanity during her visit and declined to respond to questions about her conduct. She said she was confused by the accounts of her visit.
"I'm particularly baffled, since at Fire Station 8, we asked what we could do to help," she said in the statement.
Houston Fire Department spokesman Pat Trahan said Garrison wanted to reserve comment until he has more information.
Councilman James Rodriguez, whose district includes Station 8, said Saturday he has asked Mayor Annise Parker to look into the issue.
Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck said allegations about Jones' most recent conduct at a fire station are a cause for concern
Jones Clashes With Firefighters Again