Fire Chief Terminated From Duty

BY DAVID STOKES

Upon returning from a month-long suspension without pay last week, on Jan. 6, and after Mayor Kasim Reed suspended him for publishing and distributing within his 1,100-member department his book which denigrates homosexuality and labels it as akin to "beastiality" and "pederasty," Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran has now been fired from a second stint as head of Fire and Rescue, thereby, relieving some of possible allegations of discrimination by the popular chief toward LGBT employees upon discovery of descriptions he wrote in a 1993 book.

More than two decades ago, the former Fire chief, who is a deacon and assistant minister at a metro Atlanta church, wrote "Who Told You That You Were Naked?," a publication described by some readers as an "affront" and "insensitive" to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered members of society. Twenty-two years later, after reading the book in which Cochran appraises homosexuality as a "sexual perversion" and after the discovery of the book's dissemination into the Fire and Rescue unit, Cochran was suspended by the two-term mayor following pressure from LGBT members of the community at-large. Additionally, several city leaders, led by Councilman Alex Wan, welcomed Cochran's suspension, on Nov. 24, upon several employees and LGBT leaders complaining of the book and it being distributed to city employees. As an uproar ultimately erupted during the Thanksgiving holiday because of the book's dissemination to Fire and Rescue employees—on city property—Wan, as well as Ms. Robin Shahar, the mayor's advisor on LGBT affairs, and others took complaints to Mayor Reed, thereby, leading to a closed-door meeting in late November which led to Cochran's 30-day suspension. However, returning to work last week on Jan. 6, Cochran received the ultimate reprimand by Mayor Reed with termination—not for his beliefs, but for Cochran's "poor judgment" of the book, as Reed indicated during an impromptu news conference later the same day. While Cochran was unavailable for comment by presstime to comment on his termination, he stated to a broadcast media outlet last week after cleaning out his office in downtown Atlanta, "The only thing I would do different ...is get written permission (to disseminate a publication by superiors)." Additionally, some city leaders who sought to defend Cochran's right and allow his opinion be publicized were dismayed upon his firing. City council members C.T. Martin and Ivory Young, Jr., among others, The Inquirer has learned, approached Mayor Reed prior to last week's general council meeting, on Jan. 5, to support Cochran remaining on the job. While several within City Hall asked for anonymity when commenting on the Cochran termination, including Fire and Rescue employees, others were "hot and a bit bothered" with Cochran "being the scapegoat by the mayor with the LGBT community." Another Fire and Rescue employee stated, "It is worrisome that the mayor can be influenced by some to otherwise make personnel decisions. That type of influence is dangerous, and I'm sorry (Reed) fell prey to it." Another Fire employee opined, "It's a sad day for City Hall when a certain population of the city can dictate who and what can and will take place within a department. We thought the mayor was stronger than that. We will definitely miss Chief Cochran." Also, while several council members spoke off-the-record pertaining to this story, others were inviting with commentary on the Cochran firing. "People have the right to voice their opinions and should not be judged for their opinions," exclaimed Councilman Martin, known as the council's "dean," who also voiced concern of whether Cochran's rights "may have been abridged". Another council member, Young, Jr. who represents District 3 of northwest Atlanta's Vine City community and beyond, proclaimed succinctly, "I am disappointed with the outcome" of Cochran's termination. Nevertheless, Councilman Alex Wan, the openly gay member who represents District 6's midtown Atlanta and surrounding areas, pronounced his support of Cochran's termination -- although last month to The Inquirer, he indicated the preference of an investigation into Cochran's desire to disseminate his 1993 book. "I support the Reed administration's decision to terminate Chief Cochran's employment with the city. His actions made it difficult to work with the environment for LGBT employees with the Fire and Rescue department," Wan said in a statement. Wan concluded, "This action sends a strong message to city employees about how much we value diversity and how we adhere to a non-discriminatory environment."

While Cochran remained unavailable for comment at late presstime, as well as to indicate whether he would file an appeal on the termination, another Fire and Rescue employee (who wished to remain anonymous) stated "disgust" at the "politics" of Cochran's dismissal. "Chief Cochran, while adamant in his beliefs, has not a prejudiced bone in his body. For the mayor to be influenced by a group of people to get rid of a likeable and professional manager turns my stomach. Who else will be victimized by selective politics that benefits the few?"

Deputy Chief Joel Baker will continue to lead Fire and Rescue until Cochran's successor is selected.


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Council ‘Dean’ Honors Eagle Scouts

ATLANT—Atlanta City Councilmember C.T. Martin honored Davis and Drew Turner with proclamations on Monday January 5, 2015. The brothers were members of Troop 467 and were the first African Americans to earn the rank of Eagle Scout in the Troops history.

Davis and Drew both satisfied the strenuous requirements necessary to attain the rank of Eagle Scout-through their work on a beautification project at John A. White Park—which included restoring park benches, repairing bookshelves and planting shrubs for their Eagle Project.

Davis Turner has participated in the First Tee of Atlanta Golf Program for 11 years and was selected as The First Tee Scholar, First Tee National Academy, PGA Jr. Reporter, and Student Speaker to the First Tee of Atlanta Board.

He also has excelled in many scouting areas, with achievements including the Order of the Arrow and also served in several leadership roles such as Assistant Patrol Leader.

Davis Turner attended the Howard School and graduated with high honors and a 3.94 GPA. He was involved in variety of activities including Honor Council, Varsity Golf, Basketball and Track and Field: All-American in Basketball and Track and Field, One of the Top State High Jumpers. He is attending Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, where he will major in finance and economics.

Drew Turner attended the Galloway School and graduated with high honors and was involved in variety of activities including Varsity Golf, Basketball and Track and Field.

Drew Turner excelled in many scouting areas too, with achievements including the Order of the Arrow, earning Gold, Silver and Bronze Palms and also served in several leadership roles such as Senior Patrol Leader and Assistant Patrol Leader.

Drew Turner has participated in the First Tee of Atlanta Golf Program for 12 years and has earned the highest achievement of ACE Award. He also was selected as one of the First Tee Scholars, and Finalist for the Coke Cola Award.

Drew Turner is attending the University of Notre Dame, where he will major in finance and mathematics.

The Boy Scouts of America began in 1910 for the purpose of training young men to achieve the objectives of strong character, personal fitness and good citizenship, with an elite group of Boy Scouts earning the rank of Eagle Scout, signifying dedication and determination to excel in both scholastic and scouting endeavors.


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Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Schedule of Events

The King Center has planned a number of events and activities to celebrate the 2015 MLK Holiday. This will be the 29th Holiday Celebration commemorating Dr. King 86th birthday. All events are open to the public. Details of activities are subject to change.

What: King Holiday Press Conference
When: Thursday, January 8, 2015, 10:45 am – 12:00 Noon
Where: The King Center—Screening Room
What: 2015 King Holiday Kick-Off and Reception
When: Friday, January 9, 2015, 5:30-7:30 pm /Program starts at 6:00 pm
Where: The King Center Freedom Hall

What: A Beloved Community Talk
The Race Factor: The Truth, The Lies and The Myths
When: Saturday, January 10, 2015,10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Where: Ebenezer Baptist Church Assembly Room
101 Jackson Street, Atlanta, GA 30312

What: Discussion and Book Signing
Leading with Courage: The “Friendship 9” and “Radical King”
When: Sunday, January 11, 2015, 2:45 – 6:00 pm
Where: The King Center
Featuring: Mrs. Kim Johnson and the Friendship 9, Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Bernice A. King and other extended King family members.

What: Choose Nonviolence! No Other Way! Students with King
Interactive Dialogue between Students and King Family Members, as well as those who knew and worked with Dr. and Mrs. King. Moderated by various media personalities.
Who: Students from K-12 Metro Atlanta Schools Invited
When: Tuesday-Thursday, January 13-January 15, 2015, Times: 10:00 am and 1:00 pm
Where: The King Center Freedom Hall Auditorium

What: Birthday Celebration and Party
When: Thursday, January 15, 201, 11:00 am
Who: Students from K-12 Metro Atlanta Schools Invited
Where: Freedom Hall Atrium

What: Millennials Leading with Courage
When: Thursday, January 15, 2015, 6:00 pm-9:00 pm
Where: Fire Station No. 6, Historic King District
Corner of Auburn Avenue and Boulevard.
What: State of Georgia Martin Luther King Jr. Advisory Council Program
When: Friday, January 16, 2015, 10:00 am
Where: Georgia State Capitol

What: Annual “Salute to Greatness” Awards Dinner
STG Honorees: President Bill Clinton and Kaiser Permanente
A.N.G.E.L Award Recipients: Mr. Aidan Hornaday and Mr. Harris Rosen
The King Center Distinguished Legacy of Service Award Recipient: Dr. Christine King Farris
When: Saturday, January 17, 2015, Reception: 6:00 pm/Dinner 7:00 pm
Where: Hyatt Regency Hotel—Downtown Atlanta

What: Annual Commemorative Service
When: Monday, January 19, 2015, 10:00 am
Where: Ebenezer Baptist Church—Horizon Sanctuary

Speaker: Keynote Speaker, Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd, President, Alabama State University

Special Tribute, Mr. David Oyelowo, Actor (plays Dr. King in Selma)

Special Musical Selection, Ms. Sandi Patty, Award Winning Gospel Artist

Special Greetings, Mathilde Mukantabana, Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to U.S.