EXCLUSIVE: Axed firefighter alleges racism

Darrell came to the South Schenectady Fire Department, serving Rotterdam Fire District No. 6, in 2002 as a volunteer, after working in Mariaville for five years.

At that time, he said, he ran into some conflicts with then-Assistant Chief DeLorenzo, but said those higher up in the department treated him fairly.

"I saw no severe repercussions during that time period," said Darrell.

When DeLorenzo became chief of the department in 2008, however, Darrell said he was put under extra scrutiny, and the board of fire commissioners didn't do anything about it.

"When James became chief in 2008, I really started to see a vast shift in what was occurring. Things that I would do would be looked at more harshly," Darrell said. "I felt like I was getting in trouble more. I was getting called to the chief's office more often. I was getting suspended more " really the ball started rolling downhill during this time."

In September of 2008, Darrell filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights regarding suspensions he was given "unprofessional conduct." Since the November hearing on the complaint, Darrell was suspended two more times before ultimately being dismissed.

According to legal documents, those subsequent suspensions were for department violations that included leaving an assigned job during a fire call and harassment of Chief Mike France, who was promoted from assistant chief following DeLorenzo's retirement.

Darrell's dismissal in December was the result of a departmental rule, outlined in the 2007 edition of the department's operating guidelines that says any member receiving three suspensions in a 12-month period may be subject to dismissal pending a review by the chief and fire commissioners. Bill Young, a lawyer for the department, said that he could not comment on the implementation of the rule in Darrell's case due to pending litigation.

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