The promoters of a popular concert held at Metropolitan Park downtown each spring say they're surprised by allegations that the fire marshal of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department made racist remarks about those attending the concert last month.
According to an email to the city, Division Chief Kevin Jones used a racial slur -- the N-word -- to describe people going to the music festival Welcome to Rockville. According to the complaint, Jones was going over the number of people allowed in the park when he allegedly said: "We can't allow more than 20,000 people in the park, and if those (expletive) try to put more than that in the park, they will have to deal with me."
The crowd was diverse and the event was popular. Promoter Michael Yokan said the event takes a lot of planning, and promoters work hand-in-hand with the city and fire marshal to make sure it happens.
"Fire Marshal Kevin Jones has alway been a consummate professional with us," Yokan said. "He has been great. He has met us at the venue any number of times to discuss safety and discuss issues."
Yokan said Jones never made any offensive reference in dealing with him.
"There has never been any derogatory comment toward us from Chief Jones or anyone in that office," Yokan said. "Race is never factored in in any of our dealings with any of the officers in the Fire Marshal's Office."
Fire Chief Marty Senterfitt said Friday the investigation is still ongoing.
"The individual involved -- the chief -- he is an African-American. He is the epitome of diversity on the Fire Department," Senterfitt said. "He grew up right here in Jacksonville in a very poor part of town. He was promoted though the ranks. He is an incredible success story. I've got the utmost confidence in his abilities. He is the poster child of what a diverse Fire Department looks like."
"I could say from the whole Fire Marshal's Office, from Chief Jones to everyone we have dealt with in the office, there is one concern: that is the safety of our patrons, which is our joint concern as well," Yokan said.
This investigation is being done by the city. A report is expected in the near future.