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Firefighter offers $500,000 for community center

LOS ANGELES — The attorney for a black firefighter who was awarded more than a $1 million plus attorney’s fees by a jury in 2013 says that her client is formally offering to reduce his award by $500,000 in exchange for property to permanently establish a community center in South Los Angeles.

Nana Gyamfi, who represents Jabari Jumaane, a 29-year veteran of the Los Angeles City Fire Department who had been the victim of racial discrimination, retaliation and a hostile workplace, says that her client wants any settlement to not just serve his own personal justice but also serve as a foundation for restorative justice to the black community.

In 1994, Jumaane founded the African Firefighters in Benevolence Association to provide advocacy and support to its membership and the black community at large. Since 2000, the organization has operated out of the old Fire Station No. 54 at 5740 Crenshaw Blvd., which is commonly referred to as the AFIBA Center where Los Angeles’ first black Fire Chief Doug Barry served as a captain.

“Mr. Jumaane is under no obligation to make this offer,” Gyamfi said. “A jury has already awarded him this money but the judgment alone doesn’t secure the space and that’s what is really important to him. So essentially this would be a win-win for all parties.

“The community will know that it has a permanent home in a city where black space continues to disappear. The taxpayers will save half a million dollars that can be used for other city services and Mr. Jumaane receives some compensation for his damages.”

The written formal offer was submitted to the city attorney’s office and City Council Oct. 27.

Oral arguments on the city’s appeal of the jury’s verdict were scheduled the next day. The city has filed three appeals related to this case, Gyamfi said.

A jury found that Jumaane had suffered racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation within the Fiore Department and from his supervisors after a seven-week trial and 16 days of deliberations by the jury.

Jumaane testified that his captain falsified performance evaluations under the direction of his then battalion chief which set him up to be subjected to serious discipline which included excessive and unreasonable reprimands and two suspensions.

It was the second time Jumaane had sued the city and fire department. A jury in 2007 found in the city’s favor in the first case, but that verdict was overturned on appeal due to juror misconduct.