PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Attorneys for St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Department chief held a press conference Friday to address recent accusations against Chief James Large.
Large was put on administrative leave in August following an anonymous survey of City of St. Petersburg employees. Less than half of city employees completed the survey.
In the press conference, Large said he remains loyal to the city and its citizens.
“He wants to be part of the solution,” Attorney Jay Hebert with Hebert Law Group said referencing Large.
Some responses in the survey about the work environment accused the chief of disdain towards the LGBTQ+ community, as well as a lack of inclusivity and diversity.
Attorney Hebert said he believes St. Pete is full of diverse and inclusive environments for everybody.
“The men and women in this community…are just incredible,” he said.
“Fire Chief Large must be terminated,” said Esther Matthews, president of the St. Petersburgh branch of the NAACP. “It is clear that Fire Chief Large holds a disparaging, stereotypical belief and that hampered his ability to effectively lead the city’s fire department.”
Some members of the department are defending Large, refuting the claims.
“The fire department I know is one of opportunity and a level playing field for those who respect procedure and those who put in the work,” Lt. Teresa Bieber-Rehsi said.
“This is 2023 and we’re not going to take and allow this to occur, and by systemic or even a little piece of it,” Attorney Hebert said. “It is though, not perfect.”
An anonymous female said the Chief has shown to be a leader of professionalism, kindness, and integrity.
“His (Chief Large’s) integrity is beyond measure, and I feel confident that countless men and women who have worked alongside him would agree,” another wrote to Mayor Kelch.
“It is this culture of support and empowerment that Chief Large has cultivated leading to my current position as a proud female captain,” Capt. Lindsey Kensinger said. “A role I never once thought I could achieve without the guidance provided.”
The chief feels strongly about the DEI committee addressing the issues. The DEI committee is planning to open doors for opportunities for learning and growth among its crews.
“I know when I have a case that has clear evidence when my client might be guilty. Attorney Hebert said. “And I know when my client is 100% not guilty. And Jim Large is one of those people.”
The Fire Chief has no plans of stepping down or retiring, according to Attorney Hebert.