Massachusetts Commissioner Fired Over KKK, Nazi Costumes in Fraternity

A Massachusetts official has been fired months after he admitted to wearing Ku Klux Klan and Nazi outfits while in college.

Steven Florio, who had been head of the state Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing since February 2019, was placed on paid leave in July, while Governor Charlie Baker's administration investigated the claims.

Florio has since been delivered a letter of termination effective October 19, a spokesperson for the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services confirmed to Newsweek.

Florio told staffers in June that he dressed up in the costumes when he was a member of the Kappa Gamma Fraternity, while studying at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. between 1987 and 1992, The Boston Globe reported.

The fraternity was suspended in June after pictures emerged of its members wearing blue hoods and robes which appeared similar to those worn by the KKK.

Photos from 1988—a year that coincides with Florio's time at Gallaudet—also showed current member of the school's board of trustees giving an apparent Nazi salute, according to The Washington Post.

Following the newspaper's report, Florio told his staff that he was not in any of the photos which were being circulated, but allegedly admitted to "dressing as a Nazi and saluting while wearing garb resembling the uniforms of the Ku Klux Klan" while a member of the fraternity, The Globe reported.

Florio later said he disavows his past affiliation with the fraternity.

"The allegations against this fraternity are deeply troubling, and in no way a reflection of who I am or of my character," Florio wrote in an email to commission staff, according to The Globe. "My community work at the local, state, national, and international levels are the accurate reflections of my character and who I am."

Following his dismissal, Peter MacKinnon, president of SEIU Local 509 union, which represents employees at the commission, said they had pressed the Baker administration to address the "culture of fear and uncertainty" at the agency and that Florio's employees had since lost confidence in him.

"The voices of our members were heard," MacKinnon said in a statement on Saturday. "Intolerance is not always explicit, but often expressed in the company we keep and the way we carry ourselves throughout the world.

"Those in positions of power should be held to the highest of standards. We look forward to partnering with the Baker administration on working with a new commissioner going forward."

In a statement to Newsweek, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services confirmed they have launched a search for the next leader for the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission.

Deputy Commissioner Patricia Ford was named Acting Commissioner the same day Florio was dismissed and will continue to serve in this capacity until a new commissioner is appointed.

(File photo) A member of the Ku Klux Klan salutes during American Nazi Party rally at Valley Forge National Park in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, on September 25, 2004. Massachusetts’ chief advocate for the deaf has been fired for wearing KKK and Nazi costumes in college. William Thomas Cain/Getty