Why A Black Firefighter in Montebello was Awarded Nearly $1M in a Lawsuit

From the Los Angeles Police Department and fried chicken and watermelon, now let’s take talk about the city of Montebello where an African-American firefighter/paramedic was recently awarded nearly $1 million after he successfully sued the city for racial harassment, a hostile work environment, discrimination and retaliation.

In 2008, Vernon Creswell was the only African-American in Montebello’s fire department. According to his lawsuit, he was told by then Battalion Chief Greg Mowad that he did not fit in and that Mowad had attempted to keep the city from hiring him.

Oh but it gets worse—much worse.

As documented in his complaint, Creswell, who served as a captain in the Compton Fire Department before being hired by the city of Montebello, was repeatedly referred to as a Compton “nigger” by his supervisors.

If that wasn’t enough, his supervisors openly told Creswell’s colleagues to take him “out back” to teach him a lesson.

Creswell was told by Battalion Chief Mowad that “there are good black people and there are ‘niggers’ that are bad. Chief Austin is a ‘nigger’,” referring to then Anaheim Fire Chief.

Still it gets worse.

Creswell was given the test for position of acting fire captain. His test consisted of three fire captains and one battalion chief who gave the test in a group setting and marked the results on a rating sheet. What’s the problem with that you ask? Well, the three candidates who were not black who were tested for the same position did so with one battalion chief in a closed door session without the use of a rating sheet.

The lawsuit states that Creswell’s supervisor made it clear by their actions that he would never promote to the rank of captain in the Montebello Fire Department and that he was not welcome in the department by virtue of him being black.

That part.

But the jaw dropper for me in the complaint was this.

In June of 2013 on a day Creswell was not at work, Battalion Chief Mowad is quoted as having said to multiple firefighters “speaking of Vernon, I was down in Long Beach near a restaurant with my son Trevor. Trevor looked into the restaurant and said ‘isn’t that the nigger you work with?’” Moward went on to say, “yeah, that’s him. I don’t think that’s his wife.”

Needless to say on July 1, 2015 a jury found in Creswell’s favor. They awarded him $185,151 in lost wages and $750,00 for emotional distress for a total of $935,151.

Good for him.

Taken from the Montebello Fire Department's Facebook page, this Dec. 8 photos shows Vernon Creswell and Captain Richard Zuniga in Montebello.

Taken from the Montebello Fire Department’s Facebook page, this Dec. 8 photo shows Vernon Creswell and Captain Richard Zuniga in Montebello.

As for Creswell’s supervisors, they are no longer with the fire department and the department has hired another black firefighter/paramedic.


The Court of Public Opinion

  • Dante

    Doesn’t get any better then that. Except bringing physical PAIN to the SOB who had it coming to him.

  • With body cams, cell phones and digital audio recorders, it should be easy for anyone being harassed to surreptitiously record the offending party/s. I did this recently with the opposition in a lawsuit to a person who was making sworn written statements, false statements, but I had the VIDEO to “sand bag” her. The key is to make sure they DENY the conduct before whipping out the video or audio and impeaching them…

  • I also find it troubling today that in FD, which have 500 people per one opening applying, that these types of individuals are still being hired. They are a small minority IMO, but the hiring process is so corrupted that they still get hired on….and there is no reason for that. Shameful.