ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — An Orange County battalion chief who was fired about six months ago returned to work this week.
Robert Izzo admitted using the N-word during a conversation with other fire department employees. Izzo was allowed to appeal his case, and the grievance board voted to give him his job with the same rank, which means he will supervise about 30-40 firefighters.
He previously worked for the agency 22 years until last fall. He was fired over a conversation around the dinner table that he tried to explain to county investigators.
“I can’t be exactly what it was about, maybe ‘Star Wars’ or something. And I think Eddie Brown had asked me about getting beat up or something, and for some odd reason I went to this story that occurred during my childhood, told them the story that had happened, used an inappropriate word. And, that was the gist of it, that was it,” Izzo said.
When Izzo was interviewed, last year, and investigators wanted to know more about the uncomfortable conversation, Izzo said he could only remember using the racial slur.
“I have an extremely bad memory. If you look at my office, I have notes all over my office,” Izzo said.
An investigator questioned that.
“You’re telling me you don’t remember his demeanor, his statements, whether he interrupted you or not, but yet you’re now telling me that it troubled you enough, that you replayed it enough in your mind that you went home and knew that the next morning you needed to come back and report this? After talking to Chief Howell?” the investigators said.
The county grievance board that heard his case included, Deputy County Administrator Danny Banks, Deputy Chief of Corrections Rickey Dumas and union member William Maddox.
A county spokesperson told Channel 9 the vote to re-instate Izzo was unanimous. The three were told to take into consideration the context in which the term was used.
Izzo may soon receive back pay minus the 80-hour suspension and any wages earned through other employment after he was fired. He will also have to go through sensitivity training.
Channel 9 has requested the audio recordings from the hearing to get more insight on the decision and will let you hear that when we get the recordings.