Brookline votes to pay $11 million in settlement with former firefighter

After an 11-year legal fight, Gerald Alston won an $11 million settlement after Brookline Town Meeting voted 186 yes votes to 38 no votes with 11 abstaining. All they needed was a 2/3rds majority but they easily exceeded that.

Any scenario outside of the full funding of $11 million would have resulted in a jury trial and the risk of a larger settlement. The town debated how to pay the settlement, voting to bond the full 11 million.

The legal battle began when the former Brookline firefighter got a voicemail from a supervisor Lt. Paul Pender Jr. that included racist language. In Brookline’s special town meeting Tuesday, the town debated whether Alston should be issued a previously negotiated $11 million.

“It became clear in our negotiations the lowest amount Mr. Alston would settle for and avoid going back on the court was $11 million,” said Raul Fernandez, Brookline Select Board Vice-Chair. “We brought that figure back to the full select board, which approved that figure.”

That figure was agreed upon to cover emotional distress for Alston, who was eventually fired for supposed retaliation, while Pender was promoted. That settlement was inclusive of the pay and benefits already due to Alston and would provide closure ending all litigation and all employment or retirement conversations, but not everyone agreed.

“Racism has no place in Brookline, but I don’t see how $11 million settlement in Brookline would be appropriate or fair in relation to the merits of the case that remains and the town’s other important needs,” said Gil Hoy, a town meeting member. “I don’t see how this will be particularly important in fighting against racism.”

“You can never imagine what it feels to be torn up inside emotionally, unable to function due to race-based trauma,” said Kimberly Richardson, another town meeting member. “There’s so many levels to this and you can never understand because this country and this town has been built on white supremacy culture, and this is the reason the man who left the racist slur thought it was OK to use the N-word.”

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