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Fireman's racism complaint dismissed

Gilbert Darrell, a seven year veteran of the South Schenectady Fire Department, had his first of three complaints against the department on the basis of race dismissed on Thursday, April 29, by the New York State Division of Human Rights.

The ruling, which was based on a 2008 complaint field by Darrell alleging arbitrary disciplinary actions because of his race, was based on the findings of a November 2009 hearing. At the hearing, former colleague Robert Mercoglan testified on Darrell's behalf, saying Chief James P. DeLorenzo, who left the department at the end of 2008, used Darrell's race as "a means by which to humiliate and embarrass him." Mercoglan also testified that he heard "derogatory remarks made about [the] complainant's race, both by Chief James DeLorenzo and by fire commissioners William MacMillan and Louie Morrett."

In the April 29 written opinion of Administrative Law Judge Edward Luban, the judge cites that the derogatory remarks that Mercoglan presented were "time-barred" and that the alleged discriminatory practice happened more than a year before the original complaint was filed. The judge also said that since Darrell did not lose any benefits and his material responsibilities were not significantly diminished by disciplinary actions, that the complainant was unable to show that he was a subject to unlawful discrimination.

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. During his time at the South Schenectady Fire Department, he ran into some conflicts with then-Assistant Chief DeLorenzo, but said those higher up in the department treated him fairly. 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.

Attorney Tom Witz, who is representing South Schenectady Fire Department, said he is happy with the result of the decision.

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