Broward News

Hallandale Fire Battalion Chief Fired for "No Bitch Tuesdays" Says He's Totally the Victim Here

Jeff Lyon, an ex-Hallandale Beach Fire Rescue Battalion chief fired for a laundry list of sexist, racist comments — like admittedly calling a black employee a "token" and allegedly referring to male-only shifts as "No Bitch Tuesdays" — filed a petition in Broward County Court earlier this month claiming that he's totally the victim of discrimination in all this mess.

According to a June 13 petition for writ of certiorari filed against the city of Hallandale Beach and the city's Civil Service Board, Lyon claims he was never offered a chance to rebut any of the claims the city made against him,  that the charges against him weren't made according to the Florida Firefighters Bill of Rights, and that, since City Attorney V. Lynn Whitfield had allegedly called for "a change of culture" at the fire department — apparently due to rampant sexism — that meant she was too biased to handle Lyon's case.

"That comment indicates to me that she had a preconceived idea where the investigation was going to go," Lyon's lawyer, Mark Berkowtiz, told New Times. "This was obviously not impartial." Lyon is now asking for his job back, with back pay.

Per the Sun Sentinel, Lyon was fired on October 30 after a departmental investigation accused him of operating a culture of intimidation and routine sexism at the Fire Rescue department. In addition to the aforementioned claims, Lyon, then 48, was also accused of asking women what their sexual orientations were and claiming that female employees had no business working in the fire department.

According to Lyon's recent legal complaint, he'd also been accused of telling two female employees to "coordinate their forthcoming pregnancies" so as to not inconvenience the department too much, and being overly harsh in criticizing female employees. Lyon had also been accused of making a "national origin epithet" at an employee of Hispanic descent. So yeah: Great guy to bring to a family dinner.

He'd reportedly been working at the department for 13 years, making $106,654 in his final year on the job. 

Lyon's conduct on the job was apparently so egregious he also helped bring down his boss along with it: Former Fire Chief Dan Sullivan was suspended in April 2015, and ultimately fired the following October, for tolerating "discrimination" and spawning a "good old boys' environment that belittled minorities and women." Sullivan had been chief for 18 years and was pulling in a $167,000 salary.

Lyon then appealed his firing to the city's Civil Service Board, hoping to have his job reinstated. Instead, the board backed the city's decision last March.

Lyon is now claiming in court that his firing only came after the city violated scores of due process rules before yanking his job.

He claims he wasn't warned that he was under investigation when Whitfield asked to interview him — and, as such, wasn't able to bring a lawyer with him during the exchange. He also claims the charges he was later presented with were too "vague" to comply with state law: The state Firefighters Bill of Rights, Chapter 112.82 of the Florida Statutes, states that "No firefighter shall be subjected to interrogation without first receiving written notice of sufficient detail of the investigation in order to reasonably apprise the firefighter of the nature of the investigation. The firefighter shall be informed beforehand of the names of all complainants." Lyon says that at first, he wasn't told who had filed a complaint against him or what the specific charges against him were.

Importantly, Lyon also maintains he was never given a "pre-determination hearing" to refute the claims against him. While Lyon admits he called a black employee a "token" — an offensive term for a person of color who's only been hired because of diversity laws — Lyon says he only used the term because he didn't know the employee was around to hear him. He then says he apologized to the employee and that everything's totally cool now.

"One example," Berkowitz explained, "was that one of the alleged charges was that he gave an improper ride to an investigative interview of a co-worker. The fact is that a superior ordered him to do that because of operational needs in the department." But, Berkowitz said, his client wasn't given the chance to defend himself.

He has denied belittling female employees, including using the phrase "No Bitch Tuesdays." The city, however, maintains that multiple witnesses corroborated the events in question.

Lyon also alleges there were massive conflicts of interest in his firing: In addition to what he saw as clear bias on the part of the city attorney, Lyon says it was Hallandale Beach City Manager Renee Miller who filed a formal complaint against him, rather than any of the employees he supposedly wronged.

Asked whether Lyon was implying the entire investigation was some sort of vendetta against him, Berkowitz responded: "I don’t want to say that. All I can do is comment on the pleading, and you can draw your own conclusions."

As to why it took the city manager to step up and file a complaint against him, Lyon might have answered that question himself in his legal complaint, which says the employees in question kept quiet "allegedly for fear of retaliation."

Here's a copy of the complaint:

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jerry Iannelli is a staff writer for Miami New Times. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He moved to South Florida in 2015.
Contact: Jerry Iannelli