TENNIE PIERCE HAS already had his day at City Hall, testifying before the City Council about harassment and discrimination in the Los Angeles Fire Department. Now it appears that he will get his day in court -- and it will be the Fire Department that is on trial.
Pierce is the black former firefighter who was fed dog food by his colleagues and sued the city, agreeing to a $2.7-million settlement that was accepted by the city attorney and approved by the City Council. But last week Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa vetoed that settlement, and on Wednesday, after two days of contentious debate, the council failed to override his veto. So it looks as if the case is headed for trial.
That's good -- but not necessarily because the mayor's decision was the right one or because the incident is defensible. It's because, win or lose, the city will now get a chance to hear just how dysfunctional its Fire Department is.
A trial will air the damaging evidence that led the city attorney to recommend a settlement. And for the LAFD, a department that for decades has been plagued with racism, sexism and other types of harassment, that evidence could be embarrassing. If firefighters think sneaking dog food into someone's dinner and watching him eat is just a bad joke, what's a good one? How much dehumanizing behavior is someone supposed to endure in the name of camaraderie?