Omaha fire Chief fires union president, citing internal investigation of alleged assault

Steve LeClair pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct after a woman said he punched her and made a racist remark.

The president of the Omaha firefighters union was sentenced Thursday to six months of probation in connection with an assault on a woman at a bar.

Steve LeClair, 49, had pleaded no contest in April to two misdemeanor charges, assault and battery and disorderly conduct.

LeClair had faced up to six months in jail and a $500 fine on each charge.

The charges were brought after a Nov. 9 interaction with Reenita Jackson at Tiger Tom’s Pub near 72nd Street and Military Avenue. Jackson told Omaha police that LeClair hit her and made a racist remark.

LeClair spoke briefly Thursday to reporters after the short hearing.

“We’ve dealt with it on this side of it,” he said. “I’m anxious to get this set of facts in front of an independent arbitrator with regard to my job.”

Omaha Fire Chief Dan Olsen recommended firing LeClair in late February, citing the department’s internal investigation into the bar altercation. Mayor Jean Stothert, who has clashed with LeClair, has said she supports Olsen.

LeClair has been formally fired, the city confirmed Thursday.

He has appealed his firing, pending an arbitration process set to begin in August. He is not being paid by the city in the interim, but he continues to work for the union.

John Corrigan, the attorney for the firefighters union, said Thursday that he thinks LeClair will get his job back.

“As long as I’ve been doing this in the city, we’ve had firefighters accused of misconduct off duty that were reinstated … who were involved in conduct more egregious than what Steve actually engaged in,” Corrigan said. “Termination is not an appropriate decision given his work record and given how they’ve treated other similarly situated firefighters.”

Corrigan said it is “unquestionable” that LeClair has been treated differently from other firefighters “who have not been fired for engaging (in) off-duty misconduct.”

Stothert, in a prepared statement, said the city’s Human Resources Department conducted “a thorough investigation of Mr. LeClair’s conduct. Chief Olsen made the decision to terminate and a pre-termination officer reviewed the evidence and concurred with the decision.”

When LeClair was asked Thursday about what he would say to Jackson now that he has been sentenced, he said he already has dealt with that, but declined to specify.

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Jackson, who was at the bar with a friend, told authorities that a man she later identified as LeClair had come on to her three times at the bar. She said LeClair went to buy drinks and looked at her and said, “You are (expletive) sexy.”

Jackson and her friend ignored LeClair. Twenty minutes later, LeClair approached again and said, “You are the most sexy woman I have ever saw, and if I was not married, I would take you to the bathroom,” she told police. The women again ignored him.

LeClair approached Jackson a third time and made another sexual comment. This time, she told him to leave her alone.

LeClair went to the bar a fourth time. Jackson said he whispered “white power” into her ear before striking her, which she said felt like a punch in the back. She toppled forward into the bar because of the blow. Bar staff removed LeClair.

Jackson, who is black, identified LeClair after seeing him on the TV news the next day. She filed a police report in January.

LeClair said after The World-Herald reported the allegation that he was being falsely accused.

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Alia Conley covers breaking news, crime, crime trends, the Omaha Police Department and initial court hearings. Follow her on Twitter @aliavalentine. Phone: 402-444-1068.

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