It may be as classic a no-win situation as a public official can face these days: Firing a prominent black employee. Case in point: Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio forcing the resignation of Fire Chief Aria Green.
Green’s departure — after less than a year and a half on the job — wasn’t accompanied by any of the familiar rationales we’ve come to expect in such circumstances. No sexual harassment charges, no D.U.I. arrest. Not even resume padding or pyromania suspicions. The mayor’s explanation: lack of leadership and plummeting morale. As she tersely told the Tampa Tribune: “Morale had reached a point where I thought it was detrimental to the department.”
By all accounts, Green was smart, conscientious, by-the-numbers and unyielding. When you’re running a blue-collar shop of 500 hands-on politicking, union members, the first two traits don’t trump the last two. He was a good guy, a family man, a religious person. The wild card was people skills and management style. It matters in any managerial position.
Green apparently had lost favor with his staff as well as the rank and file. It was an untenable situation; you can’t fire a staff or blanket blame the membership.
One question, however, is still begged. Given the nature of a private, distant, straight-arrow and often unbending personality and a good-old-boy membership, did it take more guts to hire him or to fire him?