Originally created 05/03/01

Firefighters sue Augusta, former chief



Two veteran Augusta firefighters have filed suit against the local government and former Chief Ronnie Few, alleging race and age discriminations.

Jack O. Hanley Sr. and James T. Taylor filed separate but similar Richmond County State Court lawsuits Friday alleging discrimination and harassment during Chief Few's tenure over the fire department.

Assistant Chief Hanley and Battalion Chief Taylor each seek to recover lost wages and benefits and to be compensated for mental pain and anguish and for attorney fees. Each man also seeks unspecified punitive damages against Chief Few personally.

A lawsuit represents only one side in a dispute. The city and Chief Few will have 30 days to respond to the lawsuits. City Attorney James Wall said Tuesday he could not comment on pending litigation except to say the city would defend itself against the allegations.

Chief Hanley, 67, started at the Richmond County Fire Department in 1975, and Chief Taylor, 50, was hired by the department in 1972. Both are white men.

Both allege in their lawsuits that they learned of a departmental written policy that states firefighters older than 50 are a hazard to themselves and others. They also allege that an unwritten policy was to favor black employees over white employees.

Each chief contends in the lawsuits that they were suspended from work in November 1999, docked hours and pay, and had work schedules changed for harassment and punishment purposes.

Chief Hanley and Chief Taylor both allege they went to the city's equal employment opportunity office to protest their treatment and that the city took no action. And, they allege, they weren't the only white males older than 40 who complained.

In November 1999, a Richmond County grand jury presentment reported "preferential distribution of pay-raise funds to higher-level administrative staff" in the fire department, an allegation Chief Few denied.

Chief Few left Augusta after leading the department for three years. He is now the fire department chief in Washington.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226.