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Tallahassee Fire Academy coordinator quits after ‘repulsive, insensitive’ social media post – Tallahassee Democrat


File image of fire flames

The coordinator of the Tallahassee Fire Academy resigned effective Thursday, following an investigation into a racist post on one of his social media accounts.

Richard Barineau was originally hired as an adjunct professor at the institute in October 1998 and was promoted to the instructional coordinator’s position in October 2017, according to records obtained Friday through a public records request by the Tallahassee Democrat.

He’s a retired captain with the Tallahassee Fire Department.

The academy is under the Florida Public Safety Institute, located on U.S. 90 West, operated by Tallahassee Community College. It offers training for first responders from throughout the state. The Tallahassee Fire Academy is a partnership between TCC and the Tallahassee Fire Department.

On Wednesday, Barineau submitted his short letter of resignation, effective 5 p.m. Thursday, one day before he was to be fired. “Thank your for your continuing support,” Barineau wrote.

Efforts to reach Barineau Friday and Saturday were unsuccessful.

Nyla Davis, director of human resources at TCC, notified Barineau on June 23 of the college’s intent to fire him within 10 days and immediately placed him on administrative leave.

The disciplinary action follows an investigation into comments Barineau posted from his personal LinkedIn account to the social media network’s “Blue Lives Matter” page. LinkedIn focuses on job networking and career development.

TCC was alerted to the posts on June 16 by Tiana Lopez, identified in TCC’s investigative notes as a Homeland Security/Public Safety student.

“Just wanted to inform (you) of the type of promotion this individual is giving your institution on a site meant for career growth and networking, and for you to be informed of the type of colleague you have in your midst,” Lopez wrote, signing with the #blacklivesmatter hashtag.

The examples show a post from June 14 on LinkedIn’s Blue Lives Matter page titled “Police Say They’ve Captured Killer Wanted for Murdering Deputy on Friday,” from The Police Tribune.

It showed a picture of a Black man being handcuffed.

The article contained a post under the profile name “usRichard Barineau us, showing a picture of gallows with the caption: “The system can be fixed! All you need is some wood and a little rope.”

According to the TCC report, another person on LinkedIn person commented, “PLEASE allow me the pleasure of pulling the handle,” to which the account “usRichard Barineau us responded, “I don’t know brother. I’m thinking on more of an auction …..lol”

TCC also included the personal LinkedIn account of Barineau, where he lists Tallahassee Community College as his employer and his position as Tallahassee Fire Academy Instructor Coordinator at the Florida Public Safety Institute.

Nyla Davis, director of human resources, Tallahassee Community College

TCC’s Davis, after confirming the LinkedIn site to Barineau, issued a strongly worded report to Barineau on the impact of his comments and how they violated TCC’s Code of Conduct and Standards of Discipline, involving behavior at and away from work.

“The picture of the gallows, caption, and your follow-up comment do not represent the mission and core values of Tallahassee Community College,” she wrote. “The statements and pictures are offensive, threatening and defamatory, and likely to incite or provoke College unrest.”

She told him as a TCC member of the public safety community, he was “expected to embrace the values of civility and ethical conduct at all times, whether on or off duty.”

She also wrote, “Given the historical context of gallows and lynching of African Americans in America, your comments are offensive, repulsive, insensitive, and adversely affect the College’s ability to perform its mission. More specifically, your comment referencing an auction can be tied directly to selling African Americans into slavery.”

Barineau, who was allowed to appeal the intent to fire him, acknowledged in a statement submitted June 25, and during a June 30 conference with TCC staff that he, in fact, posted the comments, which he had since removed.

He also said he had no racist intent. He spoke of his long-standing career in the fire service, including more than 20 years with the “Honor/Color Guard, honoring our nation’s finest, and their families, in their hour of need.”

He said his father was in law enforcement, and his son and his wife also work in law enforcement.

“When you must put your life on the line for strangers every day and most of them hate your guts just because you have chosen a profession, that career path, the strain is sometimes overcoming,” he said.

“Nowadays people just hate what they do not understand, or what they have been told to hate out of ignorance,” Barineau added.

“Please allow me to pause here and reiterate the fact that my comment on this matter was in no way, shape or form racially motivated … it could have been any person that committed murder on a 1st Responder or any other person. I know sometimes a false perception is taken as reality but, this is not who I am or, ever will be.”

But it was not enough to save his job, with a salary of nearly $54,000. On Monday, Davis wrote Barineau explaining the college intended to dismiss him on July 10.

“The college provided you an opportunity to present new information or data to refute the claims as presented, however, you did not present any new information that would change the outcome of the decision to dismiss you from your position,” she wrote.

Contact senior writer Byron Dobson at bdobson@tallahassee.com or on Twitter @byrondobson.

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