Atlanta fire chief fired after coming under fire for anti-gay remarks

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt January 6, 2015
Fire Chief Kelvin J. Cochran. Source: Atlantaga.gov

Former Fire Chief Kelvin J. Cochran. Source: Atlantaga.gov

This story has been updated. 

Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran published a book called “Who told you that you were naked?” and, after a 30 day suspension that ended today, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told Cochran he was fired.

Cochran’s book calls homosexuality a “sexual perversion,” comparable to bestiality. The city called that a fireable offense.

“I appreciate Chief Cochran’s service as Fire Chief,” Reed said in a press release.”Chief Cochran’s personal religious beliefs are not the issue. The City and my Administration stand firmly in support of the right to religious freedom, freedom of speech, and the right to freely observe one’s faith. I take no pleasure in this decision, but as the Commanding Officer of 750 employees within the Fire and Rescue Department, his judgment and management skills were the subject of the inquiry and my decision to terminate his employment with the City of Atlanta.”

Atlanta City Councilmember Alex Wan, who is openly gay, released a statement in support of the mayor’s decision.

“His actions made it a difficult work environment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender employees within the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department,” Wan said. “This sends a strong message to employees about how much we value diversity and how we adhere to a non-discriminatory environment.

“I pledge my full support to Interim Fire Chief Joel Baker and LGBT Community Liaison Robin Shahar in implementing whatever programs and steps they recommend to create a safe working environment for all employees within the department.”

The city has released Mayor Reed’s full statement on terminating Cochran:

I have made a decision to separate from Atlanta Fire and Rescue Chief Kelvin Cochran, effective immediately. I want to make my position and the City of Atlanta’s position clear. The City’s non-discrimination policy is non-negotiable. Neither race, nor gender, no religion, nor creed, nor sexual orientation, nor physical ability, nor gender identity will be used to discriminate against any City of Atlanta employee.

I appreciate Chief Cochran’s service as Fire Chief. Chief Cochran’s personal religious beliefs are not the issue. The City and my Administration stand firmly in support of the right to religious freedom, freedom of speech, and the right to freely observe one’s faith.

I take no pleasure in this decision, but as the Commanding Officer of 750 employees within the Fire and Rescue Department, his judgment and management skills were the subject of the inquiry and my decision to terminate his employment with the City of Atlanta.

I am person of deep faith, and we are a city of laws. Chief Cochran’s book, “Who Told You You Were Naked,” was published in violation of the city’s Standards of Conduct, which required prior approval from the Board of Ethics.

Despite my respect for Chief Cochran’s service, I believe his actions and decision-making undermine his ability to effectively manage a large, diverse workforce. Every single employee under the Fire Chief’s command deserves the certainty that he or she is a valued member of the team and that fairness and respect guide employment decisions. His actions and his statements during the investigation and his suspension have eroded my confidence in his ability to convey that message.

Chief Cochran also failed to notify me, as Mayor and Chief Executive of the City of Atlanta and his employer, of his plans to publish the book and its inflammatory content. This demonstrates an irreconcilable lapse in judgment.

Chief Joel Baker will serve as the Interim Fire Chief and will be able to compete for the permanent job. Going forward, the Fire and Rescue Department Command Staff and all members of my Cabinet will participate in a sensitivity training offered by the well-respected Basic Diversity firm in January. This same training will be rolled out to all managers this year.

Any Fire and Rescue Department employees with additional suggestions for moving forward are invited to share those ideas with me. I am all ears and will do everything I can to support the healing that needs to take place within the Fire and Rescue Department and for all City employees.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

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