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Black firefighter group must surrender documents in lawsuit


A judge ruled that a fraternal organization of Black firefighters will have to turn over some internal documents to a White firefighter who is suing the city, alleging he suffered a backlash in 2017 when he complained that a Black colleague who is a member of the group had harassed him by threatening to drop a bomb on him.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Monica Bachner issued her ruling On March 14 in firefighter James Sharlein’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, which alleges discrimination, harassment and retaliation, and that some of the alleged misconduct was racially motivated.

Also named as a defendant is the female firefighter, Ta’Ana Mitchell.

Last June, Sharlein’s attorneys requested from the Black firefighter group, the Stentorians, the minutes from the group’s meetings from 2010 to the present as well as the identities of members and officers of the organization during that same time period.

In her ruling, Bachner ordered the organization to turn over minutes from Stentorian’s meetings, each charter of the group, each article of incorporation and each mission statement, all from 2010 to the present. The group’s custodian of records also was ordered to appear for a deposition by Sharlein’s lawyers.

Sharlein’s requests in eight other areas were denied, including the identities of Stentorians members, officers and directors.

“The court finds (the) Stentorians raised meritorious objections to the remaining categories of production,” Bachner wrote, calling the requests “overbroad” and “irrelevant.”

In a sworn declaration, Stentorian’s President Gerald Durant said Sharlein’s case against the city has nothing to do with the group, and called the document requests “an attempt to infiltrate our organization with no legal basis to do so.”

The Stentorians is a charitable organization that is independent from LAFD, Durant says.

In their court papers, the Stentorians state that the organization was founded to “address the discrimination and segregation challenges in the LAFD” and that more than 500 men and women are members.

“The Stentorians have supported Ms. Mitchell as she is a member of an organization that seeks to promote equality and fairness throughout the fire service,” the group stated.

Sharlein worked at Fire Station 50 when Mitchell was assigned there in December 2017 as a probationary firefighter, according to his suit filed in December 2018. That month, she allegedly began making inappropriate remarks about him, including “I wanted to drop a bomb on Sharlein” and “If he was a girl, I would have beat his (epithet),” both of which allegedly were made in the presence of the plaintiff and an LAFD supervisor.