Time Off, Retaliation And Describing Job Applicant As 'Dot Head' CitedBy Brian Maass

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– The City of Aurora has terminated Deputy Fire Chief Stephen McInerny saying he was fired Monday, March 1. The firing was revealed Thursday, March 4 following requests from CBS4 regarding McInerny’s employment status. An outside investigator had been looking into complaints about McInerny since last year.

Stephen McInerny

(credit: CBS)

Kim Stuart, a spokesperson for the City of Aurora described the outside investigators’ findings by saying, “The reports found a number of policy violations occurred. As of March 1, Mr. McInerny is no longer an employee of the city of Aurora.”

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In a statement to his department Thursday afternoon, Aurora Fire Chief Fernando Gray wrote, “We are appreciative and thankful for his contributions to the department,” but said little more aside from the fact he was seeking a new deputy chief.

McInerny did not respond to a call and electronic message seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

Responding to an open records request from CBS4, Aurora released the redacted investigative reports to the television station. They cover several issues including McInerny allegedly retaliating against a subordinate, referring to an Indian job applicant as a “dot head,” and misusing time off, which was reported last year in a CBS4 Investigation.

McInerny said at the time there was an explanation for everything, but he declined to offer any specifics.

The third-party investigation found that McInerny properly took time off for many of the trips cited, but the investigator also found it likely that “DC McInerny failed to properly account for” some days off he took in 2019 , 2020 and 2021. The investigator goes on to say that McInerny had an agreement with another member of AFR, referred to as Witness 2, who allowed McInerny to keep a personal spreadsheet of “flex days.“

However, the investigator discovered numerous discrepancies with McInerny’s own accounting of his time off and identified numerous discrepancies where the Deputy Chief appeared to improperly take time off. McInerny told the investigator that in 2020, he was paid for 1,720 hours but actually worked 2,329.2 hours.

“Now it seems apparent that DC McInerny has taken it upon himself to count all Fridays in 2020 as flex days, and to rationalize doing so by pointing to the extra hours he claims to have worked. However, that does not comport with Witness 2’s explanation about how DC McInerny should account for his time.”

The investigator noted other problems with McInerny’s time off.

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“It is also important to point out that the flex time spreadsheet prepared by DC McInerny includes several additional instances when DC McInerny gave himself credit for working on days in 2020 that he identified as flex days that do not appear to have been actual flex days for him… there appears to be a significant disconnect between Witness 2 and DC McInerny with respect to DC McInerny’s 2020 schedule, which has resulted in DC McInerny taking days off that do not appear to comport with Witness 2’s expectations.”

In another case that contributed to McInerney’s firing, in October 2019, a co-worker reported hearing McInerny refer to an Indian job candidate as a “dot head.”

Stephen McInerny

(credit: CBS)

The investigator wrote that “Deputy Chief McInerny is his own worst witness, responding to the allegation with weak denial and tone-deaf praise and stereotyping of Indian people…”

The witness said McInerny couldn’t remember the name of the applicant so described him as a “dot head” which the fire department witness said was “startling.”

McInerny said he didn’t remember using the phrase, “I don’t think I have ever said anything like ‘dot head’ at work. I have Indian friends… I would not say that… I like Indian people and I have worked with them extensively in the Information Technology realm and they excel in that profession.”

The investigator said McInerny’s “comments come off as stereotyping and tactless.”

“Ultimately, this investigator is persuaded that Deputy Chief McInerny likely uttered the ‘dot head’ comment as alleged,” wrote the investigator, who described McInerny as “tactless at best and untruthful and vindictive at worst.”

McInerny went on to tell the investigator that current and former fire department workers were “working together to destroy my career.” He called it an “orchestrated character attack,” according to the investigative report.

In another case, a subordinate reported that when he questioned the adequacy of training and other issues overseen by McInerny, the Deputy Chief retaliated by transferring the firefighter to an undesirable station for an extended period of time and attempted to interfere with the firefighters leave requests. The investigator found it “more likely than not” that McInerny’s actions were driven by retaliatory motives.

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The Aurora termination is the second consecutive department that has fired McInerny. He previously served as Fire Chief in Naples, Florida but was fired there in 2016. McInerny was paid about $151,000 annually.

Brian Maass