CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The city fire department has placed a deputy fire chief on administrative leave while it continues an investigation into alleged social media posts some called offensive and transphobic. The official has also apologized.

Jeff Dulin
Jeff Dulin

Charlotte Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Dulin was questioned over a Facebook post last week. The Facebook post featured Bruce Jenner. The former Olympian is rumored to be undergoing a gender transition, though he himself has not confirmed them.

On one side of the image, Jenner’s original 1976 Wheaties cereal box is shown. On the right of the image, a more recent, feminized photo of Jenner is photoshopped on to a Fruit Loops box.

“Fruit” has been a common slur against LGBT people.

Advocates in Charlotte were quick to point out the post’s offensiveness.

“I’m pretty offended. That’s pretty bad,” Paige Dula, a local transgender activist and educator, said after seeing the Facebook photo.

[We aren’t publishing the photo in this article, put you can see it by clicking here.]

Dula, a leader in the local Charlotte Non-Discrimination Ordinance Coalition, called the photo “childish” and “derogatory,” especially for transgender people.

Dulin’s Facebook post came just as the debate was heating up on proposed ordinances that would add LGBT people to local non-discrimination protections.

Charlotte Fire Department Chief Jon Hannan released a statement on Monday regarding Dulin’s administrative leave:

The Charlotte Fire Department takes any and all concerns seriously that are brought to its attention and looks into them immediately.

Each fire department employee deserves to have issues raised about their performance thoroughly investigated. That is true whether it is a personal or professional matter, and whether an employee is in a leadership position or not.

Deputy Chief Jeff Dulin has been placed on administrative leave, starting today, while the department investigates the concerns about posts on his personal social media account.

Dulin also issued a personal statement and apologized for the Facebook post:

I first want to apologize if anything that was shared on my social media account caused hurt feelings for or offended anyone, whether in the LGBTQ community or the community at large. While I did not create the picture that was widely circulated on the Internet and Facebook, it was posted to my account. I take full responsibility for the lapse in judgment and am truly sorry for that.

I want everyone to know that I am by no means a person who holds any prejudicial feelings toward any member of our community. This is incredibly personal to me, and while I will not go into details, I want to assure everyone that I respect people of all backgrounds and sexual preference.

My life for the past 32 years has been dedicated to the Charlotte Fire Department, which means I have dedicated 32 years of my life to equally serving and protecting the citizens of Charlotte – all the citizens of Charlotte. I hope those decades of service are a more accurate reflection of my character than this one brief lapse.

Dulin’s administrative leave also comes as he faces questions over spending. A city audit report notes that Dulin had overcharged the city for reimbursements and other expenses more than any other employee. The value of the overcharged expenses is about $2,600.

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.