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City will pay firefighter $150K plus four years salary to settle lawsuit involving Juneteenth parody party

Rochester firefighter Jerrod Jones hugs his former high school English teacher, Jason Muhammad, on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, at a news conference where Jones said he was forced while on duty to attend a party that mocked the Juneteenth holiday.
Max Schulte
/
WXXI News
Rochester firefighter Jerrod Jones hugs his former high school English teacher, Jason Muhammad, on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, at a news conference where Jones said he was forced while on duty to attend a party that mocked the Juneteenth holiday.

A Rochester firefighter who sued the city after his captain took him to an allegedly racist Juneteenth parody party while on duty has reached a settlement with the city.

The party was one of several allegations raised in a lawsuit that described a work environment rife with bigoted and intolerant behavior.

Jerrod Jones will receive $150,000 from the city —half now, and half upon his retirement in four years. Jones will remain on paid leave during that time collecting full pay and benefits.

A city spokesperson confirmed those terms Monday. The lawsuit was dismissed Friday, on the grounds that both parties had come to a resolution.

Jones’s current salary is $92,783, meaning the city will pay out a total of over half a million dollars over four years, not including benefits.

“As part of this resolution, Mr. Jones has elected not to return to his duties as a firefighter,” reads a joint statement on the resolution. “This was Mr. Jones’ decision, and the city is respectful of this choice.”

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Jones’ attorney, Nate McMurray, declined to comment on the settlement.

Jerrod Jones filed his discrimination complaint against the city last year. While the Juneteenth parody served as the catalyst for Jones’s complaint, and a now infamous press conference by its hosts garnered international attention, the lawsuit documents numerous other allegations of discriminatory practices at the department.

Among the allegations were that firefighters would put unnecessary ventilation holes in homes in Black neighborhoods, both as practice and as a form of entertainment. It also alleges hoodies were banned in the department for a time following the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who firefighters allegedly referred to as a “thug.”

The party, meanwhile, spawned more legal fervor. The hosts, Mary Znidarsic-Nicosia and Nicholas Nicosia, later sued McMurray and county Legislator Rachel Barnhart for defamation. That lawsuit alleges McMurray and Barnhart had engineered a “hate crime hoax” in regard to the “First Annual Liberal Smashin Splish Splash Pool Party.”

That party allegedly featured Juneteenth flags, served Kentucky Fried Chicken and Hennessey cognac, and included a burlesque performance by a woman dressed to resemble Barnhart.

The case against McMurray and Barnhart is ongoing.

Gino Fanelli is an investigative reporter who also covers City Hall. He joined the staff in 2019 by way of the Rochester Business Journal, and formerly served as a watchdog reporter for Gannett in Maryland and a stringer for the Associated Press.