MIAMI (CBS4) – An arbitrator has concluded a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue employee demoted over a Facebook post should be restored to his previous rank of captain.
Brian Beckmann was busted down two ranks to firefighter after one of his posts on the social media site referred to “urban youths” the product of “(expletive), ignorant, pathetic, welfare dependent excuses for parents.”
The Facebook post was published in response to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teen from South Florida shot and killed in Sanford.
After public backlash which included protests, Beckmann was demoted.
He challenged the demotion along with his union, the Local 1403 Metro Dade Firefighters, International Association of Firefighters.
“I do not recall testifying that I said it was in poor judgment, but in hindsight, yes it was,” Beckmann said of the internet post when he testified in February.
Another hearing was also held in January.
William Bryson, the Miami-Dade Fire Chief at the time of Beckmann’s demotion, testified that he intended to suspend him without pay.
But according to the arbitrators 16-page report, Bryson said Mayor Carlos Gimenez instructed him to demote or terminate Beckmann instead.
Gimenez also testified.
He told the arbitrator he thinks the mayor should have the ultimate authority over discipline of every employee in Miami-Dade County.
The arbitrator, however, disagreed, concluding discipline within Miami-Dade Fire Rescue should come down to a department director, not the mayor.
Lurie decided Beckmann’s rank of captain should be restored.
“While I respect the arbitration process, I’m disappointed by the arbitrator’s finding in this case,” Mayor Gimenez said in a statement. “Clearly, his finding highlights the need to amend County procedures to properly reflect the powers of a Strong Mayor. That said, we must always hold our County employees to a higher standard, and given the offensive and inflammatory remarks made by Mr. Beckmann – a member of a diverse organization that serves an equally diverse community – a quick slap on the wrist just isn’t good enough. I stand by the original decision to demote him, a punishment that was far more befitting of the offense.”
Beckmann will get backpay and benefits going back to the date of his demotion.
The arbitrator did say Beckmann should have to serve the 14-day unpaid suspension, though the dates for that have not been set.
Beckmann declined to comment on camera tonight until he spoke with the fire chief and his attorney.
Local 1403 President Rowan Taylor provided a statement to CBS 4’s Lauren Pastrana Wednesday night.
It said: “The union represented Brian Beckmann throughout this process in order to protect his rights under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Ultimately the arbitrator ruled that the two rank demotion was issued contrary to the agreement and contrary to the rules established by the Board of County Commissioners. We accept the ruling of the arbitrator and Captain Beckmann will serve his suspension without pay. I understand that this issue has raised questions about our commitment to this community. I want to reassure everyone that our members are always dedicated and always committed to protecting the lives and properties of all our neighbors.
The arbitrator’s decision is binding.