As expected, comments about the firing of former Greensboro Fire Department Capt. Dustin Jones dominated the monthly public forum at the June 6 Greensboro City Council meeting.
If the comments proved anything, it is that the community is deeply divided over this issue.
Before the public forum began, Mayor Nancy Vaughan reading a prepared statement stating that the City Council only had two employees – the city manager and the city attorney – and did not have access to the personnel records of other city employees that were not available to the public. She also said that the City of Greensboro had strict social media policies and that statements about race, religion and protected classes may not be protected speech under the First Amendment.
The letter from City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba upholding the termination of Jones lists five recent posts on Jones’ personal Facebook page and states, “The net effect of these posts is to dehumanize, delegitimize, disparage and disrespect those who are different from you. Organizational culture is defined in large part by what behaviors are tolerated. We simply cannot tolerate this type of behavior from a leader of this organization.”
Steve Wall, a speaker in favor of Jones, was interrupted by someone in the audience shouting “F—- you, facist.” That person was removed from the meeting. Vaughan said, “I will remove any person with an outburst like that and, Mr. City Attorney, I certainly think we should be able to bar him from the next meeting.”
Several of those speaking in support of the firing and of Jaiyeoba denying the appeal said the posts were “homophobic and transphobic.” They questioned whether Jones would protect members of the LGBTQ community and said that having someone with those views working for the Fire Department made them feel unsafe.
One speaker said that while the Facebook posts were made off duty, he did “not believe that those beliefs would not bleed into the workplace environment.”
Several of those who spoke in support of Jones noted that they had been threatened on the way into the meeting and said that they had not seen complaints about the way that Jones had done his job as a firefighter.