In response to a call by NAACP Pasadena President Allen Edson for an investigation into City Manager Steve Mermell’s handling of the reassignment of African American Fire Chief Bertral Washington, Mermell on Friday asked Edson to meet with him to discuss African-American hiring.
“Knowing that you are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion, I would invite you to meet with me soon and at your convenience, to discuss ways that we might increase the representation of African-Americans in various positions in the City,” Mermell wrote.
Pasadena Now reported on Thursday that Edson was calling for the investigation.
The NAACP has staunchly defended Washington, who was reassigned to the City Manager’s office last Thursday to perform work on the city’s Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) program.
Some residents claim Washington was moved to the City Manager’s office after allegedly being placed on administrative leave in January.
“On Monday, February 10th, it was made known on record that Pasadena’s City Manager Steve Mermell suspiciously reassigned Chief Bertral Washington without notifying portions of City Council members and/or Public Safety committee members before taking such aggressive actions,” Edson wrote in a statement. “It has also been reported to the NAACP by local sources of workplace harassment of Chief Washington by the Pasadena Firefighters Association.”
According to Edson, “The Pasadena NAACP membership is extremely disappointed with the lack of transparency and the lack of empathy for all of the community of Pasadena. Mermell’s decision-making on public safety has come [in]to question.”
Edson called on Mermell to reinstate Washington until an investigation shows cause for removal.
Members of the group showed up en masse at the Feb. 10 City Council meeting and demanded answers regarding the issue.
According to Edson, the NAACP will continue to call-to-rally members and community allies to attend Pasadena City Council’s meetings to stress their concerns and contact their local, state, and federal representative.
Mermell and Mayor Tornek said the issue could not be discussed due to state laws that prohibit the public discussion of personnel records.
Mermell reiterated that point in his response on Friday.
“As I mentioned at the February 10th City Council meeting, I am unable to comment on personnel decisions or reveal details related to any individual decision based on privacy laws and contractual obligations,” Mermell said. “Given the statements in your press release, however, I do think it might be helpful for me to point out that under our City Charter, the City Manager has the duty to supervise, coordinate and administer the various functions of the City. As part of this, the City Manager has the authority to appoint, promote, discipline and terminate the employment of all officers and employees of the City in accordance with the personnel system created under the Charter, except for the City Attorney/City Prosecutor and City Clerk and their respective staffs (See City Charter Section 604).”
It is not known if Edson has agreed to meet with Mermell.
“Discrimination and unfair treatment have no place in our city,” Mermell said. ” Please rest assured that my actions as City Manager are made in the best interests of our City and its residents and are free from any bias or prejudice and with full and complete regard for the due process rights and the privacy rights of all involved.”