ATLANTA, Ga. — Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed on Tuesday announced that he had terminated Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, the day Cochran was scheduled to return to work after a 30-day suspension for violating city policy by writing a book that included comparing homosexuality to bestiality.
Reed made the announcement at a press conference at City Hall where he reiterated the city’s nondiscrimination policy that prohibits bias based upon sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as race, color, religion, and sex.
“His personal religious beliefs are not the issue at all despite the number of comments and emails I have been receiving on a daily basis,” Reed said at a packed press conference. “His judgment and ability to manage the department was the subject of this inquiry.”
Reed said Cochran was given the option of resigning, but refused to do so resulting in his termination today. Deputy Chief Joel C. Baker was named the interim fire chief.
“Certainly we agree with Mayor Reed’s position on this and his rationale for it,” said Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham moments after the announcement was made. Georgia Equality had called for Cochran to be fired.
Cochran’s anti-gay views could only make for a hostile work environment, Graham noted.
“This is not about his religious views but his about his ability to lead a diverse work force,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that this had to happen. I feel the mayor has done the right thing to ensure all employees are treated fairly.”
Cochran published his book in violation of the city’s standard of conduct, Reed stressed, and he said every single employee in the fire department deserves to come to work in an environment where they feel safe in keeping with the city’s policy on nondiscrimination.
“His actions around the book, his statements during the investigation, eroded my confidence in conveying that message,” Reed said.
Reed said he believed the city faced serious liability if Cochran remained on the payroll.
“If you work in an organization, you check in with person signs your check. And that didn’t happen here. And after that happened there was no contrition about it,” Reed said. Cochran spoke publicly about his suspension at religious events during his suspension, drawing the ire of the mayor.