Town Settles With Firefighter Who Alleged Racist Environment

BROOKLINE, Mass. (AP) — A former Massachusetts firefighter engaged in a yearslong legal fight with the Boston suburb of Brookline over what he said was a racist work environment has reached an $11 million settlement with the town, officials said.

The settlement with Gerald Alston, who is Black, was announced Tuesday by Brookline’s Select Board.

The agreement “is poised to end a painful 11-year saga which deeply harmed Mr. Alston and brought discredit to the Town of Brookline,” the board said in a statement.

It went on to say: “This Select Board extends to Mr. Alston our sincere apologies for the Town’s mistakes, and our commitment to seriously address racist and other discriminatory behaviors.”

The settlement is contingent upon approval at a special town meeting scheduled for Oct. 5.

“Should Town Meeting fail to authorize funding, all parties will return to court where the finances and reputations of the Town and the individual defendants are further at risk, and where the Town will need to expend significant resources at trial,” the board wrote.

Alston's attorney, Brooks Ames, declined to comment when reached Wednesday.

The dispute dates to 2010 when Alston’s superior mistakenly left a voicemail for Alston in which he referred to a motorist who had cut off his son with a racial epithet. The supervisor apologized but was subsequently promoted.

Alston refused to return to the job and stopped communicating with the department, which he said was due to his fear of working in a racially hostile environment.

Alston, a firefighter since 2002, was placed on leave in 2013 and fired in 2016.

He sued the town in federal court 2015 alleging racial discrimination.

The state Civil Service Commission ordered Alston reinstated with back pay in 2019, and he has technically been on paid leave since.

In April, the highest court in Massachusetts ruled that the town was wrong to terminate Alston.