Sacramento city fire crews let a Stockton firefighter use a ladder truck last week to propose to his girlfriend through a second-story window on the California State University, Sacramento, campus.
The incident occurred as Sacramento Fire Chief Joe Cherry was preparing a task force report to the City Council about widespread misconduct by city firefighters.
Cherry delivered his report Tuesday only to face new questions about the nonemergency use of city firefighting equipment for the proposal.
"This is very disturbing," said Councilman Robbie Waters.
"I can't believe this happened in this city after everything we've been through."
Cherry's report to the City Council dealt with changes the Fire Department was making in the wake of scandals involving drinking on duty, cruising bars for women, giving joy rides on fire engines and attending a summer event called the Porn Star Costume Ball while on duty.
Cherry's task force stemmed from an investigation launched July 3 after six on-duty firefighters attended the Porn Star event at the Radisson Hotel.
During the investigation, city officials discovered multiple incidents of misconduct and moved to terminate nine firefighters.
Of those nine, two firefighters, Tom Mitchell and Dan Kennedy, resigned rather than face termination; two captains, including Chris Wade, are still appealing their dismissals; and five were sent termination letters, but later returned to work after agreeing to sign a five-year "last chance" contract with the city.
Cherry told the City Council the Fire Department was conducting an internal investigation into the marriage proposal at CSUS.
The use of the firetruck for the proposal was cleared by Assistant Chief of Operations Forrest Adams, fire officials said.
Brian Rice, president of Sacramento Area Local 522, defended the use of the emergency equipment as an act of good will.
He said allowing the Stockton firefighter to propose while using city equipment was similar to allowing a terminally ill child to ride on a fire engine, or stopping to help elderly motorists whose vehicle had broken down along the road.
"Be careful what you wish for, council," Rice said. "We do not want to adopt a mentality where we come to work and pull the doors down."
Council members learned of the CSUS incident when Councilman Steve Cohn received an e-mail complaining about a marriage proposal that took an engine out of service for about an hour Thursday.
After Tuesday's meeting, Waters said he had more questions but once the chief said it was an internal investigation he had to stop.
"I know there are two sides to every story, and that's why I asked the chief if there was any validity to the e-mail," Waters said.
"But as far as I'm concerned, this sort of thing is a lot different than a community event, like firefighters delivering Santa Claus presents to neighborhood kids a block or two from the firehouse."
Since the Sacramento firefighter scandals became public, city officials said the Fire Department can be reviewed by the Office of Public Safety Accountability, created an Internal Affairs/Professional Standards Office for the department and created a task force to look at the operational procedures of the department.
City officials have refused, however, to make public the actions of the firefighters that led to terminations, claiming it was a personnel matter.
The Bee has requested material from the investigation, including the names of the nine firefighters, copies of the termination letters and other investigative documents.
The firefighters union sought a court order to block the city from releasing the information.
The Bee has asked a Sacramento Superior Court judge to review the documents and to determine what material should be released to the public. A hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 22.
About the writer:
- The Bee's Elizabeth Hume can be reached at (916) 321-1203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.