BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Massachusetts’ chief advocate for the deaf has been placed on leave after acknowledging he was a member of a now-suspended college fraternity known for wearing robes resembling those of the Ku Klux Klan and making Nazi-like salutes.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration said that Steven Florio, the commissioner of the state’s Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, will remain on paid leave from his $120,000 a year job pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

“The Executive Office of Health and Human Services takes these allegations seriously,” a spokesperson told WBZ-TV in an email Friday.

Patricia Ford, the agency’s deputy commissioner, will take over on an interim basis.

Florio recently acknowledged to staff members he was a member of Kappa Gamma Fraternity, which was suspended last month by Gallaudet University, a college in Washington, D.C. for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Members of the university’s oldest fraternity were recently seen wearing blue robes with pointed hoods that resemble the white ones worn by the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan, the Washington Post reports. A recently surfaced photo from 1988 also shows frat members performing an apparent Nazi salute.

Florio didn’t respond to an email seeking comment Friday. But, a union representing some of his workers claims he recently told commission staff in an email that he made Nazi-like salutes while wearing KKK-like garb during his time at the college three decades ago.

Florio also said in the message that he disavows his past affiliation with the fraternity.

Florio was the longtime director for the Rhode Island Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing before Baker tapped him for the role in Massachusetts last February.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  1. He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. John 8:7

    I woulld like people to think back to when they were 20 or 22 years old. The things you did then you would not do today.In 1988 the things accepted are not acceptable today.For example you could smoke in restraunts and bars in 1988. I guess we need to comb through the records and bring every restraunt and Bar owner up on charges relating to smoking.

    How can we expect a 20 yo college Frat guy to have extrodinary gift of prescience,to predict that the wearing of a robe or that a certain hand gesture can be reinterpreted.over 30 years later. But that seems to be the way we are going in this country. I cannot understand how a man can be demonized for some thing that “MIGHT BE” interpreted as being “remotely” racist. Seems these days acusations are madw more with Adverbs than Nouns.

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