News Column

Obama Toilet Paper Leads to Firefighter's Termination

Nov 30, 2012

Tonya Alanez

Placing toilet paper imprinted with President Barack Obama's face in a fire station has led to a fire fighter's termination and he had until 5 p.m. Friday to turn in his badge.

It was Clint Pierce's third instance of posting political paraphernalia on city property and a violation of a direct order to cease and desist from such behavior, according to city records.

"It was clearly a case of insubordination," city spokeswoman Sandra King said Friday. "He had a similar situation of posting political messages on city property and he was given a free pass at that time and told to cease and desist and he did it again and really exacerbated the situation."

Expressions of political views that could be considered offensive or divisive don't belong on municipal property, the city says.

Pierce, 50, had been with the department since November 1993. Despite two telephone message, he could not be reached for comment Friday.

The incident exhibited "tasteless and disrespectful treatment" of the president, "caused significant divisiveness within the department and community," and led to "a community outcry" and "negative national news coverage," Fire Chief Harry L. Small wrote in a Nov. 29 order calling for Pierce's termination.

After investigating the toilet-paper stunt, Small concluded in a Nov. 20 memo that he "found no evidence to indicate that Pierce's actions were racially motivated, but rather they were politically motivated."

But black activists in the city saw it differently, appearing in force at Tuesday's City Commission meeting to express appall at what they saw as Pierce's disrespectful, offensive, and racist actions, and to call for his dismissal.

"If you don't know what it means, I'm going to break it down to you very gently and very nice," Carlene Duncan said. "It means we will wipe our butt with your face, and that's not very nice. That's very disrespectful to our president.

"[Pierce] needs to be fired and that is just the bottom line," she said.

On Oct.19, the toilet paper appeared in a restroom at Pompano Beach Fire Station 103, 3500 NE 16th Terrace, south of Sample Road in the Cresthaven section of the city.

Pierce admitted putting the toilet paper there as a "gag," city records show.

Pierce had been ordered to "refrain from any further posting of political messages on any city property," following a November 2011 incident in which he had placed a bumper sticker that "did not cast the president in a positive light" on his locker.

Pierce was reminded of that order three months later when on Feb. 14 he had a coffee mug with a picture of the president portrayed as a clown, city records show.

Pierce apologized but it was too little, too late.

"Your apology for your actions is appreciated, but does little to undo the widespread damage to the reputation of the city and the fire department organization," Small wrote.

Source: (c)2012 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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