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Paramedic Whistleblower Alleges Oscar Grant Cover Up; Evidence of System-Wide Racism

by Phil Horne, Esq. (justiceforseanatoaklandfire [at]
Paramedic Sean Gillis, an instructor and supervisor at the Oakland Fire Department, filed suit on Friday, June 17th, 2011 against OFD. In his complaint, Gillis alleges OFD mistreated Oscar Grant in its response to Grant 9-1-1 calls on January 1st, 2009, destroyed evidence related to the mistreatment, ordered Gillis to stop his investigation of the call response, and is currently retaliating against Gillis for exposing same.
OAKLAND. Paramedic Sheehan Gillis, an instructor and supervisor at the Oakland Fire Department (OFD), filed suit on Friday, June 17th, 2011 against OFD. Alameda County Superior Court No. RG-11-581209. In his complaint, Gillis alleges OFD mistreated Oscar Grant in its response to Grant 9-1-1 calls on January 1st, 2009 and destroyed all evidence related to the mistreatment, ordered Gillis to stop his investigation of the call response, refused to comply with an order for a call review by former OFD Medical Director Dr. Michael Howard, MD, forced Howard to quit by withholding his paychecks, and is currently retaliating against Gillis.

OSCAR GRANT. On January 1st, 2009, OFD responded to the BART police shooting of Oscar Grant—an unarmed BART passenger. The shooting became a focus of community direct action during 2009 and 2010 and just recently when the shooter was released after serving a brief prison sentence.

OVERLOOKED. Overlooked until now is OFD’s role in Grant’s death. According to Gillis, OFD mistreated Grant, and that mistreatment is so egregious that it should be criminally investigated.

WOUND UNTREATED. Grant had been shot at pointblank range. The bullet made both entry and exit chest wounds. OFD Emergency Medical Services Division (EMS) first responding paramedics applied an air-tight treatment only to the entry wound—leaving the exit chest wound open to air. According to Gillis’ complaint, this misconduct is a ‘death sentence.’ Grant died from his wounds 5 ½ hours later.

SCUTTLED INVESTIGATION. On January 6th, 2009, Gillis launched an investigation and requested the coroner’s report to assess whether paramedic misconduct contributed to Grant’s death. On January 10th, 2009, OFD issued a written order to Gillis to stop the investigation and to refrain from reporting his findings to anyone—even the Grant family or law enforcement. The written order is attached to Gillis’ complaint.

EVIDENCE DESTROYED. About this time, according to Gillis, OFD destroyed all paper records related to the Grant response and the computer archive of Grant’s Patient Care Report.

DR. MICHAELS. OFD’s Medical Director, Dr. Howard Michaels, MD, ordered a call review. Even though, at the time, Michaels was the highest medical authority at OFD, the EMS Division ignored his order. Gillis alleges OFD retaliated against Dr. Michaels by interfering with his paychecks until Dr. Michaels finally left in September 2010. Dr. Michaels left OFD owed over six (6) months’ pay. When he finally left, Dr. Michaels turned to Gillis and warned, “You’re next.”

RETALIATION AGAINST GILLIS. Dr. Michaels was right. According to Gillis, OFD launched a retaliatory campaign of harassment and retaliation that included moving Gillis’ office from Jack London Square to a small trailer in the middle of a parking lot in a remote area of Oakland, eliminating his lunch break, taking his mailbox and city car access, weekly bullying sessions and monthly performance reviews, and demoting and suspending Gillis.

PUBLIC RECORDS ACTION. Gillis made a Public Records Act request for the Grant file and staff meeting audio tapes with racist and inappropriate statements about Oscar Grant. According to Gillis, OFD refuses to confirm or deny the destruction of the Grant file and, at first, falsely denied the existence of the recordings. Gillis filed suit under the Public Records Act in Alameda County Superior Court (No. RG-11-576250). Said suit is available for download by clinking the PUBLIC RECORDS ACT LINK on justiceforseanatoaklandfire [at] .

SYSTEM-WIDE RACISM. Gillis alleges the mistreatment of Grant is an example of system-wide discrimination against people of color.

HISTORY. In the year 2000, in a television special on OFD, entitled “Test of Courage,” the discriminatory practices (against black people and women) of Oakland Fire were investigated by PBS. PBS showed that OFD historically tolerated discrimination, believing employment practices favoring males from “certain families” was based in sound science. OFD’s historical perspective was described as:

"Many firefighters [] come from families with several generations of white men in the fire service. Recruitment, training, and leadership have helped to honor and preserve lineages that [allegedly] favor bigger, stronger fire fighters."

Though the statement is not attributed to any particular personnel, Mark Hoffman worked closely with the reporter and is believed to be the source of that information. OFD promoted Hoffman after the special aired and Hoffman is Chief (interim) today.

MEASURE Y. Gillis alleges that evidence of the bigotry at OFD can be found in OFD’s failure and refusal to comply with Measure Y—a special tax fund created to support “at risk youth mentoring.” Measure Y requires OFD to create and maintain one “at risk youth” mentoring program in each of its 15 fire stations. OFD collects $4,000,000.00 in Measure Y money every year but fails to create or maintain any “at risk youth” mentoring programs—not one of the 15 required.

MERRITT COLLEGE. Gillis alleges that, instead of implementing programs that help “at risk youth,” OFD is dismantling such programs. OFD forced Gillis to quit his directorship of historically-black Merritt College’s EMT program, in part, to accommodate the competing program of National College of Technical Instruction (NCTI)—a for-profit college based in Colorado with a historically white student body. OFD now provides NCTI the access to OFD facilities and classrooms Merritt College formerly enjoyed. This means that NCTI students will be the only Bay Area students with “real world” OFD experience on their resume and be much more likely to receive OFD jobs and promotions, once hired, and, in this way, OFD will perpetuate historical discrimination against black job applicants and employees.

DIRECT ACTION. Gillis invites the public and his co-workers at OFD and throughout the City to become involved in the effort to bring accountability to OFD for misconduct against Grant AND to use his action to highlight racism, sexism, privatization, and corruption throughout the City of Oakland. “Now is the time for change,” says Gillis.

DEMAND INVESTIGATION. Demand District Attorney Nancy O’Malley launch a criminal investigation of OFD misconduct against Grant and willful destruction of evidence by calling: (510) 272-6222.

INDY NEWS. Watch for independent press interviews on KPFA radio and independent newspapers throughout the Bay Area, community meetings, and direct action against O’Malley, Mayor Jean Quan (who promised to “clean house”), the City Council, and OFD.

Contact: justiceforseanatoaklandfire [at]
by Phil Horne, Esq.
he Oscar Grant Murder Cover-up, Privatization &
The Case Of OFD EMT Paramedic Trainer Sean Gillis
Sean Gillis, an Oakland Fire Department EMT paramedic trainer and Vice President of
IFPTE Local 21 Unit M called for an investigation of the treatment of Oscar Grant
who was murdered at the Fruitville BART station. As a result he has been targeted
for firing and harassment. Gillis talks about the conditions in the department and
the efforts to silence him after he called for an investigation. He also discusses the
atmosphere of racism and the privatization scheme being pushed by the management
of the department to outsource from Merritt Community College the training of
paramedics from the community to a private company AMR. Also interviewed was
labor and civil rights attorney Phil Horne who is representing Sean Gillis.
This interview was conducted on June 12, 2011.
For more information on the case go to
Production of Labor Video Project
Add Your Comments

Comments (Hide Comments)
by Phil Horne, Esq. (justiceforseanatoaklandfire [at]
I am the attorney for Sean. His story may have remained un-told but for the integrity and hard work of Local 21 Rep. Moises Montoya. Thank you for your continuing support, hard work, and keen insight!
by freedom
Someones got to get a video record of this man before he is "silenced" for good.
Indybay is the only place that I have seen this story. Of course it is not being reported by the corporate press. Thanks Indybay!
by Oakie

False claim by Gillis: "Measure Y requires OFD to create and maintain one 'at risk youth' mentoring program in each of its 15 fire stations. OFD collects $4,000,000.00 in Measure Y money every year but fails to create or maintain any 'at risk youth' mentoring programs—not one of the 15 required."

Measure Y has no such requirement. The $4 million is supposedly to keep fire stations open. Measure Y talks about mentoring programs but does not make OFD responsible for them. Instead, Measure Y gives the program money to poverty pimps who concentrate on paying themselves well.

Read Measure Y for yourself here.

by not crazy about firemen
Regardless of whether or not OFD is specifically mandated by the terms of Measure Y, the fact remains that their complete lack of interest in aiding in a program that would help to diversify their department (what they're supposed to be interested in) is an embarrassment. This lack of interest is further ammunition in Gillis' claims about the culture of insularity, racism, and public relations propaganda that is rampant in OFD. It's time to cut the pensions and pay of these parasites. They can't even put out fires...
by Maggie Kaigler Armstead
I was hired in 1992, by the City Of Oakland as the KTOP-10 Television Producer, a supervisory position. I retired from the Oakland Fire Department after 12 years of service in a variety of positions including; five years as the TV Producer, one year as Interim General Manager of KTOP-10, and seven years as a Program Analyst III.

While at OFD among other things, I created and acted as administrator for, "Friends of the Oakland Fire Department". FOFD is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose purpose is to garner corporate funds for the specific purpose of providing teaching tools and materials to afford self empowerment to seniors and persons with disabilities such that they can save their own lives in event of earthquake, fire or flood; to provide funds for instructional tools and materials in 4 different languages and the emergency equipment necessary to meet the needs of the culturally diverse community served by the Oakland Fire Department. When I left FOFD had $55,000.00 in corporate donations in its treasury.

In 1996 I filed a lawsuit against the The City of Oakland, in which I was represented by IBEW-Local 80 and during the course of which I suffered a brain hemorrhage, resulting in a stroke, in Oakland City Hall. Ultimately I won the lawsuit in arbitration. Judge Bonnie Bogue presided.

In 1999, as a result of the law suit I was reassigned to the Oakland Fire Department. I worked in OFD public relations and communications for five years as a Program Analyst III and from which position I was forced to retire in 2005.

Here's what happened to me during the years I spent in OFD. I had to write up my direct supervisor, an Office of Emergency Services Manager, for harassment. My concerns were investigated and sustained. I was then retaliated against by that manager, reassigned to Communications under a deputy chief. After 2 years, I wrote him up for sexual harassment. In addition I wrote up the then Dispatch supervisor for harassment.

During the staff investigation of those concerns, in which I was being sustained by the City of Oakland Investigative team, the proceedings were interrupted by a since retired Deputy Chief who, instead of allowing the investigation to run its course, adhere to protocol and be factually resolved, he, during a non evidentiary hearing refused to address my concerns. Instead he derided and denounced them as "discourteous behavior" on my part, saying, "You are too much trouble." He held up a city business card and quoted from it saying "...all employees are afforded courteous treatments..." suggesting the problems were the result of a lack of courtesy on my part.

He then attempted to both fire and lay me off but was unable to do so.

I wrote him up for interfering with the city's due process and legal procedures; refusing to address my concerns, attempted wrongful termination, violation of ADA state and city laws and procedure, of neglecting and denying me union representation during a hearing, and for reaching a baseless conclusion as no evidence was provided or allowed to support his false finding, which finding was therefore was both unfair and illegal, the result of a hearing that was likewise improper and illegal.

The then Human Relations Manager looked at my write up and refused to hear my concerns, remained silent but not before advising me there was nothing she could do.

I later learned that after I retired, that same Human Relations Manager, had attempted to redirect the funds from my salaried position to her position, this, with the consent of the former Executive Chief of the Fire Department. Then City Manager Deborah Edgerly refused to allow it. Shortly thereafter, Edgerly was busted in an FBI sting that costs her Her job.

But I digress.

Before I retired I went to City Attorney John Russo. Russo who refused to meet with me, instead had a representative of his office call me at home. An attorney with the City Attorney's Office advised me, that "Sometimes", she explained, "... it is too much to take on. (and) It is better, Maggie to just walk away."

So while John Russo sat on his hands...I was forced into early retirement.

Later, I went to the Federal Bureau of Investigation who had by then launched their own investigation of OFD. I met with them privately and spoke to them in a confidential discussion.

Based on past experiences, I have no doubt that Oakland Fire Department Para Medic Sean Gillis is telling the absolute truth. Why would anyone lie about this -putting their life in peril? There are many, many other people who have observed illegal behaviors, who fear retaliation and remain silent. Others have sued, won, were subsequently retaliated against and forced out.

There was in 1996, added to union and/or city law a new rule called the "Maggie Rule" which forbids firing someone, rewriting or changing their job title but keeping the job description and then hiring someone into that same position. The Oakland City Council also enacted, around that same time, a Whistle Blowers Law.

Frankly, after working in the KPFA news room as unpaid staff for 3 years 2005-08, before Pacifica Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt and General Manager Anderson Phillips took over and a new Listener Board added members that balanced, somewhat, the LSB power flow, KPFA was headed in the same direction: one of absolute power that corrupts ---Abso-#%%@-lutely.

by MKA
Correction: should read: Local 21 not Local 80.
Recognition acknowledged and appreciated. Much work is to be done in defense of Gillis, the issues of his case, and to advance the cause of union, civil and human rights. Sheehan's story must be brought to public light, and his legal defense is a key part of this. Gillis' courageous stand might be, on a local, Bay Area scale, compared to Bradley Manning's current struggle against the Wall Street/Washington, D.C./Pentagon war machine. A united front of working people - including, potentially, the Grant family, supporters of the Oscar Grant case, and everyone our cities, schools, and all public agencies are supposed to serve - is needed to win full fairness and justice for Gillis and more generally, all brave whistle-blowers and people of conscience.
by Phil Horne, Esq. (justiceforseanatoaklandfire [at]
Back at cha! I can tell what you have set forth is absolutely true. As Sean's attorney, I am getting one story after another. Each is unbelievable. Years ago, a woman ran for mayor in DC with the (in sign language) campaign, "It is time to clean house." See our seven (7) demands for Mayor Quan. Our first meeting is Wednesday June 29th at Peets Coffee (Broadway at 12th). We are going to change OFD for all the people of color and women that, like you, have had to endure the un-endurable.
by Phil Horne, Esq. (justiceforseanatoaklandfire [at]
In response to the statement that Measure Y does not require at-risk youth mentoring: All statements in the complaint are thoroughly researched. Measure Y requirements were obtained by Public Records Act from OFD directly. This is what we received from OFD; what OFD admits is current law. Clearly, OFD must initiate and maintain at-risk youth mentoring in each fire house. Note: Poor quality copy received from OFD.
by Phil Horne, Esq. (justiceforseanatoaklandfire [at]
Sorry, I could not check how the PDF would appear before publishing. That illegible PDF states, "Fire Services [is required to maintain staffing, etc.,] and establish a mentorship program at each station with an amount not to exceed $4,000,000.00 annually from funds collected under this ordinance."

Again, $16,000,000.00 (4 years @ $4 million) and NO mentorship programs established.
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