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As a Buffalo firefighter, I took great exception to the recent News article concerning the formation of a panel to address so-called racism within the Buffalo Fire Department. The article was factually inaccurate and gave readers a false impression of the state of race relations within our department.

First, it wrongly identified firefighter Frank Gist as a representative of black firefighters. The Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association, Local 282, is the exclusive representative of all Buffalo firefighters and fire officers. Gist is president of an organization of black firefighters that has no official role in union decisions.

Second, while few Buffalo firefighters would argue against the need to punish actual incidents of racism, most would disagree with Gist and his organization's definition of the term. In Gist's view, it is racist for the department to have a drug-testing policy and to require minimum qualifications for officer candidates. Those of us who disagree with his view are presumably guilty of racial discrimination.

Finally, concerning the alleged racial incident involving Fire Department Battalion Chief Tony Hynes, everyone in the department knows that he is being retaliated against for his efforts as a union official in uncovering misappropriation of funds.



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