2004-12-03 / Front Page

Men On ‘Racist’ Float Awarded Back Pay

Illegally Fired By Police, Fire Departments After 1998 Labor Day Parade

A federal court judge has awarded three Broad Channel men who rode on a “racist” float in a 1998 Labor Day Parade more than $275,000 in back pay after deciding that they were illegally fired for their actions.

Court papers released recently show that Manhattan Federal Judge John Sprizzo ordered the city to pay Police Officer John Locurto $80,000, Firefighter Robert Steiner $77,121 and Firefighter Jonathon Walters $117,804 in back pay.

The three city employees, in civilian attire and on their day off, rode in the 1998 parade on a float entitled, “Black To The Future.” The float reportedly denigrated black people, predicting what Broad Channel would look like in the future. The three men were in blackface and one of them hung from the back of the float, allegedly mimicking the death of a Texas black man who had been killed by being dragged from a truck.

Then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani said publicly that the behavior of the three men was “reprehensible” and that they did not deserve to work for the city.

They were fired by their agencies and their lawyers argued that they were not provided with due process rights.

Sprizzo ruled last year, however, that the city violated the free-speech rights of the three men. In that decision, he noted that they were acting as individuals, not as city employees.

He also noted that Giuliani’s public statements had the effect of firing the men without due process.

While the three men had sued for both back pay and reinstatement, Sprizzo signed off only on the back pay.

John Pines, a lawyer for the city’s Corporation Counsel, told Carl Campanile of the New York Post that the three men would not be “paid a penny,” by the city, nor would any of the three men be rehired by their agencies pending an appeal to Spizzo’s ruling.

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