Bloom Law Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Former Kennewick Fire Chief
January 13, Kennewick, Washington.
Bloom Law is representing former Kennewick Fire Chief Vince Beasley, who was unceremoniously fired in 2019, in a lawsuit against the City of Kennewick and City Manager Marie Mosley for retaliation and race discrimination.
Over his nearly 40-year career at the Kennewick Fire Department (KFD), Chief Beasley performed outstandingly, including after he was promoted to fire chief in 2014. He exceeded objective performance goals, received awards and commendations, and increased Kennewick’s firefighting capabilities. Only three months before Mosley fired him, an independent agency recognized the improvements Chief Beasley implemented by increasing Kennewick’s firefighting capabilities rating to elite status.
But despite Chief Beasley’s exceptional performance, Mosley fired him because he is Black and because he became increasingly vocal in opposing the city’s discriminatory practices towards racial minorities and women. By firing Chief Beasley, Mosley undermined the idea that the workplace is a meritocracy where employees are judged by their work quality, not their skin color.
“Chief Beasley accomplished a great deal and built a legacy that he deserved to look back on with pride. But City Manager Mosley unjustly destroyed that legacy when she publicly fired him for performance issues. Instead of leaving to well-deserved accolades, the City Manager forced him to box up his office and slink out of the building in disgrace,” said Beth Bloom of Bloom Law. Breskin Johnson & Townsend serves as co-counsel.
In firing Chief Beasley, Mosley unlawfully held him to a higher standard than her white subordinates. Mosely gave struggling white subordinates repeated chances to improve, opportunities to grow, and lengthy tenures, but she quickly terminated the only minority department head after a single (inaccurate and prejudiced) negative performance review. Chief Beasley had to prove he was competent over and over again.
Kennewick Human Resources Director Corey Osborne told Chief Beasley that he should not be fired because others performed “much worse.” And, after Mosley fired him, Osborne told Chief Beasley, “I hope you sue Kennewick for $10 million.” Chief Beasley is asking for fair and reasonable compensation for what was taken from him.
Mosley also required Chief Beasley to walk a tightrope that white employees did not have to worry about. A Black man, according to strong stereotypes, should remain deferential and subordinate. Mosley was not willing to tolerate a leader who defied these stereotypes.
After firing Chief Beasley, Mosley rapidly seesawed between inconsistent justifications for his discharge. For example, on numerous occasions, she falsely claimed Chief Beasley had retired or resigned. As part of her cover-up, Mosley falsified official city documents so that they erroneously claimed that she had not fired Chief Beasley. Then she accused Chief Beasley of misconduct and refusing to perform his duties, only to later admit to City Council Member Ed Frost that Chief Beasley had done nothing wrong.
Mosley’s wrongful termination of Chief Beasley is unsurprising given that a discriminatory culture has consistently pervaded the city government’s senior leadership and fire department. In its over 100‐year history, the KFD has only hired a solitary Black firefighter: Chief Beasley. And, as a former senior human resources specialist will testify, in Kennewick City Government, “white skin is royalty.” Chief Beasley also recalls an incident when he shook hands with one of the firefighters who looked at his hand and quipped, “It doesn’t rub off,” referring to Chief Beasley’s skin color.
Chief Beasley brings this lawsuit to restore the idea that the workplace must be a meritocracy, where opportunities are vested in individuals on the basis of talent, effort, and achievement, rather than social class or race. He wants to be a voice for Kennewick’s minority population, who have been left out of opportunities for advancement long enough. The purpose of this lawsuit is to hold the city accountable and to use this painful experience to seek positive change for the future.
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