UPDATE: New Haven firefighter suspended for racist comment retires

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — 8News sister station News 8 learned that the New Haven Firefighter accused of posting a racist remark through his Facebook page has retired. The comment led to the unpaid suspension of Lt. Kevin Owens, for two weeks, which equals the entire month of September.

Owens was a veteran firefighter, with decades of service, but decided to step down effective September 22.

“Not a matter of why he did it,” said Capt. Jimmy Kottage, president of the Fire Union. “He has different options. He has over 20 years on the job and contractually he has the right to retire and that’s the option that Lt. Kevin Owens chose.”

For his 20-plus years, Owens is eligible to receive 50 percent of his pension. He retired too soon to receive the max, of 80 percent.

“They’re contractual benefits and I don’t think you should change contractual benefits because somebody may have made a mistake,” Kottage said. “If he did it during the course of his employment, then there’s penalties by the Attorney General that can take his pension away.”

Next week he was scheduled to appear in front of the New Haven Board of Fire Commissioners, to determine his employment status. That appearance is now canceled.

Mayor Toni Harp addressed the ugly allegations with News 8 three weeks ago, saying that she was enraged by the comment.

“I am a person that has been called that name in elementary and high school and I can tell you it’s very hurtful and demoralizing,” Harp said at the time.

The Fire Union is calling on City officials to provide diversity and cultural sensitivity training, so the department can move forward.

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