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.
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