TEXARKANA, Texas (KSLA) — A driver for the Texarkana, Texas, Fire Department is on paid leave while officials investigate “racially charged statements” he reportedly made on Facebook.
The comments on the 12-year employee’s personal Facebook page were brought to city officials’ attention Monday, city spokeswoman Lisa Thompson said.
“The post was about an hour old when the post was made public. And the city was notified shortly thereafter.”
From there, the matter was expediently sent to the appropriate supervisor for further review and “will be dealt with according to the city’s personnel policy regarding prohibited activities and use of social media,” says a statement the city released Tuesday.
While there is no timetable for when the investigation will be completed, Thompson said, the results will be announced publicly once the inquiry has concluded.
The city has not disclosed the exact nature of the driver’s comments nor the context in which they were presented.
But Mayor Bob Bruggeman, City Council members, city manager Shirley Jaster, Fire Chief Eric Schlotter and other city administrators are disappointed and angered by the statements. And in light of the death of George Floyd and racial tensions nationwide, city officials said it was important that they make the city’s position clear.
“We want to convey our deepest apologies for the actions of this employee and vehemently refute what was said. The sentiments do not in any way reflect the values of the City of Texarkana, Texas.”
Like elsewhere, protests over Floyd’s death have been staged in Texarkana.
“We are heartbroken for the African-American community, not just in our city, but also across our nation,” says the statement the city released Tuesday. “We are thankful for the peaceful protests that have prevailed in Texarkana, USA thus far.”
City officials go on to say that they “... believe change can come from difficult conversations, open minds, honesty and effort.”
Their statement concludes:
“Each one of us is committed to providing a ‘Welcoming and Safe Environment’ to all people, no matter their race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, socioeconomic or disability status. Moving forward, we promise to make these principles our core to guide in how we listen, engage, educate ourselves and interact with the citizens of Texarkana.”