Arbitrator Upholds Termination of Florida Firefighter For Gang Affiliation

The termination of a Florida firefighter for violating a gang affiliation prohibition has been upheld by an arbitrator. Clinton Neal Walker, 35, was fired by Hillsborough County Fire Rescue in January 2018. He was the first county employee to be charged with violating a new ordinance that prohibits employees from being affiliated with an organization identified by the State of Florida or the federal government as being involved in a pattern of criminal conduct.

Walker had been a member of the St. Petersburg Chapter of the Outlaws Motorcycle Gang. He claims he quit, but when the Chapter’s president, James Costa, was shot by members of a rival gang while riding his motorcycle, Walker accompanied Costa into the hospital. At the time Walker was off-duty but wearing a HCFR t-shirt. Costa himself was a HCFR captain.

Arbitrator Charlotte Gold upheld Walker’s termination. The Tampa Bay Times quoted from the decision:

  • [Walker] conducted himself in a manner that was detrimental to the department.
  • The conclusion is inescapable that he affected the county’s standing in the community.
  • His behavior ultimately reflected poorly on the county and his profession in general.
  • By wearing his HCFR t-shirt at the hospital, he gained favor for himself in violation of the county’s uniform regulations.
  • He then proceeded to place the interests of a friend and mentor — an individual who continued a strong relationship with a motorcycle gang — over and above those of law enforcement.

More on the story.

Here is a 2016 Memo about the criminal organization prohibition: 11-18-16-Countywide-Directive-FR-Employees

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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