Firefighter’s lawsuit says someone framed his son for arson, costing him a promotion

Screengrab from KNTV video

On a Mexican vacation while celebrating a pending promotion, a 27-year Oakland Fire Department veteran got some bad news from his superiors, a civil lawsuit says.

A battalion chief told Capt. Henry Holt in a January phone call that he could not be promoted to acting assistant fire marshal after all “because of what is going on with your son,” a federal lawsuit filed Thursday against the department alleges.

A few weeks earlier, Kasey Cardell Holt had been sentenced to 12 years and 8 months in prison after being convicted of setting fire to a Napa Valley College gym and a coach’s apartment complex after a dispute with the coach, The Mercury News reported.

After returning from Mexico, Holt confronted Oakland Fire Chief Darren White at a basketball tournament a few days later, according to the lawsuit.

“Do you even know what happened?” the suit says Holt asked. “He was framed. I wish you would have talked to me and got the facts before making a decision like that.”

White responded that he understood because his own father had gone to prison, the lawsuit says. Holt then walked away and discussed the lost promotion with union officials at the game.

The lawsuit says the department later offered Holt the assistant fire marshal job on the condition that he drop a union grievance over the lost promotion. He refused based on his “morals, values and the fact he was the only African American male” on the promotion list, according to the lawsuit.

Holt’s lawsuit alleges discrimination, retaliation and breach of contract.

“I think it’s personal, discriminatory, people overstepping bounds, not knowing what the rules are,” Holt said, KNTV reported.

The city of Oakland did not respond to a request for comment on the suit, The Mercury News reported.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.