An Oakland fire captain is suing the city’s Fire Department for discrimination, retaliation and breach of contract, claiming he was denied a promotion because his son is a convicted arsonist.
Capt. Henry Holt, a 27-year veteran of the Oakland Fire Department, said he was in line to become the next acting assistant fire marshal and was offered the position on Dec. 15, 2017. He accepted, but a few weeks later while on vacation with his wife, Holt got a call from the Fire Department’s battalion chief, Eric Logan, who rescinded the job offer, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.
When asked why the offer was retracted, Logan responded: because of “what is going on with your son,” the lawsuit states.
Holt’s son, Kasey Cardell Holt, was sentenced to 12 years and eight months in prison for setting the Napa Valley College gymnasium and his coach’s apartment complex on fire in 2015. The Napa Valley Register reported that Holt’s son had a dispute with his coach prior to the fires.
“It’s horrible and it’s wrong; you’re judging me on something you don’t even know about,” Holt said in an interview with NBC Bay Area, KNTV-TV Channel 11. “I have the education. I have the knowledge. I have the experience.”
Holt alleges that after he was first denied the promotion, the Oakland Fire Department created a hostile work environment and that he was “made a mockery of” despite his consistent good evaluations. He also said that in ignoring his seniority — a qualification for the job — the Fire Department denied promotion to a qualified African American, which is discriminatory and unlawful, according to the lawsuit.
Weeks after the battalion chief’s phone call, Holt approached Oakland Fire Chief Darin White at a basketball tournament in Merit College and asked why his promotion was taken away. Echoing previous statements, White said “because of what’s going on with your son,” according to the lawsuit.
“Do you even know what happened?” Holt said he asked the chief. “He was framed. I wish you would have talked to me and got the facts before making a decision like that.”
White responded: “I know how it is. My father went to prison,” the lawsuit states.
After months of conversations among representatives from the Fire Department, the union and Holt — as well as two interim acting assistant fire marshals — the Fire Department again offered Holt the job on June 8. But this time, the city attorney’s office informed Holt that he would have to “release the defendants … from any liability,” according to the lawsuit.
He turned down the offer “due to his morals, values and the fact he was the only African American male on the list of qualified members,” the lawsuit states. Holt instead filed a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The Oakland city attorney’s office said Tuesday it would not comment on the case because it had not yet seen the lawsuit.