A member of the board of directors of the Hyattstown volunteer fire department in upper Montgomery County has been accused for the second time in 18 months of using a racial slur while arguing with another firefighter.
The Jan. 26 incident has prompted the resignation of four volunteer firefighters and a call for an independent probe by county officials.
Volunteer firefighter Kevin Dodson is accused of making a derogatory reference to black people while arguing over a coat with firefighter Bruce Dickerson, according to a complaint filed by six firefighters. Dodson and Dickerson are white.
Dodson was suspended immediately after the incident and was reinstated Feb. 1 after a hearing before the department's board of directors, said Mike Staley, one of the firefighters who resigned over the incident.
Dodson could not be reached for comment yesterday.
However, board President Avon Chisholm said the allegations against Dodson are "a big spite game." Chisholm said Dodson has been punished for the remark but declined to elaborate, saying it was a personnel matter. "We don't tolerate any type of remark like that," Chisholm added.
Staley, who was present when the incident occurred, said yesterday the board's action is insufficient. "This is the second incident of him doing this," said Staley, who has resigned in protest. "For a second offense of this magnitude, it's not enough."
Dodson was president of the Hyattstown department's board until he was pressured to resign in August 1989. He was accused of deriding blacks during a dispute with a fire lieutenant about cleaning a firetruck. Dodson denied making the remark, saying he quit "not because I'm guilty of any racial bigotry, but because of upcoming personal problems."
The Dodson controversy is the second in recent months in which a volunteer firefighter has been accused of racial slurs. The county's Fire and Rescue Commission, at the request of County Executive Neal Potter, is investigating Germantown Fire Chief Michael May, who has been accused of using an ethnic slur about a Hispanic firefighter.
In 1988, May, who was then chief of the Hyattstown Fire Department, called a black firefighter a derogatory name during a training session. May resigned after the county withheld some of the department's funds.
Staley and the five other firefighters who signed the Jan. 26 complaint asked that Dodson be disciplined for his most recent comment. Citing the alleged 1989 incident, the complaint says the department "just can't stand another scandal, and some affirmative action needs to be taken."