Settlement reached in fire captain's suit against Sac Metro district

Published: Thursday, Jun. 13, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Jun. 13, 2013 - 8:28 am

Just before the third day of trial was to commence Wednesday, opposing attorneys announced to a federal judge they have settled a fire captain's civil rights lawsuit against the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District.

After the jurors listened on Monday and Tuesday to a total of six hours of testimony by Capt. Mark Thomsen, and then, just before they went home Tuesday, heard parts of a recording of a graphic interview of a woman at the center of a sex scandal in the district, attorneys told U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller they have worked out a resolution.

Mueller ordered the attorneys to finalize the agreement within seven days and file the necessary paperwork within 15 days.

Metro Fire spokeswoman Michelle Eidam said Thomsen will receive nothing in the way of monetary compensation. She said the district agreed to waive the costs incurred in defending the suit.

Thomsen's lead counsel had no comment.

Thomsen, 45, who has spent his entire adult life in fire service, told the jury of four women and four men about losing his job and later being reinstated as part of a binding arbitration award that included back pay and benefits.

One day he was the department's manager of information technology and its internal affairs investigator, Thomsen recounted. The next day he was frozen out of an investigation he had initiated and was suspected of being a turncoat.

In rapid succession he was told by district Chief Don Mette, now retired, that he was going back to line duty, but he was placed on administrative leave before that happened, then he was branded a felon who had altered an internal firehouse report, and he was ousted in March 2007.

The termination "devastated" him, Thomsen testified. "After 20 years, your world gets turned upside down. I don't know how to describe it."

District officials have consistently maintained Thomsen was dumped for rewriting a report pertaining to paramedics' response to the Antelope home of the then-president of Sac Metro's board.

Upon his return, Mette again tried to fire Thomsen for alleged felony theft of a copy of the recording of the woman's interview. Again, the attempt was unsuccessful, although Thomsen did sustain a reprimand.

After years of legal infighting and finally being afforded his day in court, he turned out to be the only witness the jury heard before he threw in the towel for nothing in return.

Thomsen claimed he was fired over his insistence that a number of his fellow workers be targeted in a criminal investigation for their on-the-job sex with the woman, who was forced out of the department's emergency medical services unit. She is identified in court papers only as "DH."

After she contacted Thomsen seeking reinstatement and money damages, the district paid her $550,000. But there was no criminal investigation, and Thomsen alienated others in the department by agitating for one.

"It should have been taken to the sheriff's office," he testified. "We had done it before, and I couldn't understand why there was push-back."

Parts of the woman's interview, conducted by retired FBI agent Jeff Rinek, were played for the jury Tuesday. The panel listened with stone faces as she recounted a series of varied sexual encounters, naming multiple male employees of the department as her partners. She said most of what she described took place on district property while the participants were on duty.

She told Rinek she felt forced into some sex acts, although she admitted she never said "no" because it was not in her makeup.

Call The Bee's Denny Walsh, (916) 321-1189.

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