BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Massachusetts’ chief advocate for the deaf has been fired following a state investigation into his connections to a college fraternity known for wearing robes resembling those of the Ku Klux Klan and making Nazi-like salutes.

Steven Florio, who had been head of the state Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing since February 2019, was issued a letter of termination effective Oct. 19, a spokesperson for the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services told WBZ-TV.

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Florio was placed on leave in July after acknowledging he was a member of Kappa Gamma fraternity while attending Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., a school for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Steven Florio. (Image credit: MCDHHBoston-YouTube)

Florio told commission staff that he made Nazi-like salutes while wearing KKK-like garb during his time at the college three decades ago, according to a letter from the union that represents commission employees sent to Gov. Charlie Baker.

Florio also disavowed his past affiliation with the fraternity.

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The union said it was concerned by the “culture of fear and uncertainty” at the commission.


Patricia Ford, the agency’s deputy commissioner, will continue to serve as the commission’s acting leader pending a search for a new commissioner.

Florio was the director of the Rhode Island Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for 16 years before being named to the Massachusetts position.

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