A firefighter who reported finding a knotted rope and a threatening note with a drawing of a noose in an East Baltimore station house last month had placed the items there himself, city officials said yesterday.
The man was suspended last week for performance-related issues and will likely face additional punishment, fire officials said. Sterling Clifford, a spokesman for the Police Department and for Mayor Sheila Dixon, said the man admitted to the hoax and will not face criminal charges.
Officials identified the firefighter who they say acknowledged writing the note as Donald Maynard, a firefighter-paramedic apprentice who is black. Maynard could not be reached for comment.
The rope incident sparked outrage two weeks ago and prompted a federal investigation into possible civil rights violations.
On Nov. 21, a handwritten note and a rope were discovered about 1:30 a.m. by two Fire Department employees - one black and one white. It read, "We cant [sic] hang the cheaters but we can hang the failures. NO EMT-I, NO JOB." A small stick figure with a noose and the word "Stop" were drawn below the message.
The note appeared to refer to the cheating investigation and a push by top fire officials to compel emergency medical technicians to become certified as paramedics. Maynard was among those whose jobs were at risk.
In a written statement yesterday, Fire Chief William J. Goodwin Jr. said Maynard had admitted to "conducting a scheme meant to create the perception that members within our department were acting in a discriminatory and unprofessional manner."
"If the department upon investigation found Mr. Maynard's alleged claims to be factual, I would have acted swiftly and severely," said Goodwin, who said last month he would step down at the end of the year. "I will do the same thing regarding Mr. Maynard's unfortunate act of misconduct."
Stephan G. Fugate, head of the city fire officers union, said Dixon's reaction contributed to racial tensions. He said members of the community became hostile toward firefighters after the mayor "came out and, in effect, said racism is running rampant."
Union leaders also criticized the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Vulcan Blazers, a group that represents black firefighters, saying they, too, provoked racial tension by rushing to judgment.
"To put it mildly, this time we're not going to let it go," said Fugate. "The reaction from the NAACP, the mayor and the Vulcan Blazers was sickening, and we're going to demand an apology."
But Marvin L. "Doc" Cheatham, president of the NAACP's Baltimore chapter, said the fact that such an incident could occur shows that pervasive racial problems persist in the department.
"It really saddens us to hear that evidently things have reached a stage that even an African-American does an injustice to himself and his own people as a result of a negative culture in that department," Cheatham said when asked to respond to the unions. (This has got to be the most idiotic quote I've read lately - 1rt)
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