One firefighter took an ambulance to Goldies Adult Superstore to get a porn star's autograph. Another drove an engine to fire calls with women he'd picked up in bars. A third joined his captain and fellow crew members for a drink while on duty at Cheaters Sports Bar.
All three firefighters and two others whose termination letters were released by the city Tuesday got their jobs back after the Sacramento Area Fire Fighters union negotiated for reduced punishments on their behalf.
The letters were obtained by The Bee after a judge refused the union's attempt to block their release. They show the five firefighters repeatedly violated city rules against drinking on duty, giving joy rides to members of the public - particularly women found in bars - and taking department vehicles outside their assigned areas.
The letters also give a more detailed account of improper behavior by a group of city firefighters that came to light after a reported sexual assault by one off-duty firefighter who attended the Porn Star Costume Ball at the Radisson Hotel in July. That firefighter resigned, and the District Attorney's Office cited a lack of evidence in declining to file criminal charges against him.
But a four-month investigation by the Fire Department's top officers found other incidents of misbehavior. The termination letters of the five firefighters released Tuesday show:
* Firefighter Scott C. Singleton was fired because he "kissed and fondled a woman" in a Fire Department vehicle parked in front of the Porn Star Costume Ball on July 2 at the Radisson Hotel. Singleton also had an alcoholic beverage in the vehicle and, that same night, he gave a firefighter in uniform a drink.
* Apparatus operator Charles D. Clayborne was fired for driving an engine to emergency calls after drinking alcohol at Station 6 in Oak Park. He planned and joined an on-duty party Aug. 5 at Cheaters in east Sacramento to celebrate a firefighter's promotion to captain. On multiple occasions he drove the engine to midtown bars, where he offered rides to women.
* Firefighter Troy A. Doehrer was fired because he participated in picking up women who had been drinking at the Blue Cue and the Zebra Club, two midtown bars, on Aug. 24. Doehrer also was fired for drinking at Station 6.
* Firefighter Anthony J. Ramirez was fired for giving women joy rides on fire equipment and for drinking on duty multiple times. He was cited for having two women sit on his lap as he drove his engine around a block in midtown on July 25. Later, four females rode with him in the rear cab of the engine to a structure fire, a vehicle fire and a grass fire. He told the women to "duck down" so they wouldn't be seen by a chief officer. On April 26, Ramirez became "belligerent, loud, and combative" with other firefighters and the public after drinking on duty.
* Firefighter Patrick M. Willard was fired for drinking on duty at Cheaters. Willard also joined other Station 20 crew members in going to the autograph-signing sessions of a porn star at two Goldies Adult Superstores.
Doehrer, Clayborne and Willard did not return calls for comment. Singleton and Ramirez could not be reached.
On Oct. 14, four of the firefighters were reinstated after agreeing to work 240 hours without pay. The fifth firefighter, Willard, was reinstated after agreeing to work 120 hours without pay.
According to the letters, the suspensions - instead of firings - were negotiated by Sacramento Area Fire Fighters Local 522. In November, Fire Chief Joe Cherry said the five were being reinstated after agreeing to a "last chance contract" requiring them to uphold department standards for the next five years.
On Tuesday, Cherry refused to comment on the letters. Union President Brian Rice did not return calls.
The city also released the termination statements of firefighters Thomas C. Mitchell and Daniel Patrick Kennedy, both of whom resigned instead of being fired.
The firefighters union had sought to block release of the information earlier this month through a court injunction after The Bee requested the documents under the California Public Records Act.
But on Tuesday, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Cecil denied the union's request.
"The court's decision is based upon the limited scope of information that the city currently proposes to disclose, the substantial nature of the allegations leveled against the subject firefighters, and the initial evidence creating reasonable cause to believe the allegations are well-founded," Cecil said in his ruling.
The Bee has also asked the court to privately review all investigative material to determine what other documents should be released to the public.
"We are pleased that the court has denied Local 522's attempt to block the release of important public records that will shed light on a disturbing chapter in the Fire Department's history," said Karl Olson, the attorney for The Bee. "We look forward to receiving more documents in the future."
At a hearing last week, union attorney Christopher W. Miller argued that the release of the documents was an unconstitutional violation of the privacy rights of the firefighters and witnesses who were interviewed during the department's widespread investigation into firefighter misconduct.
The release would have a "profound chilling effect" upon future investigations, Miller said in court.
Before the union filed suit, city officials had agreed to provide The Bee with copies of the disciplinary letters sent to the firefighters, noting that they felt the information fell under the Public Records Act. Last week, however, Supervising Deputy City Attorney Brett M. Witter told Cecil that city officials are concerned that the release of some material could affect the cooperation of potential witnesses in new investigations.
The disciplinary letters show the "charges are well-founded," Witter told the judge. Miller continued to argue that the release of disciplinary letters was a violation of privacy. Olson said the Public Records Act eclipses the privacy of firefighters.
"Firefighters don't have privacy protection that trumps the Public Records Act," Olson said.
He told the judge the incidents in question took place in public and on public vehicles. The public is entitled to more than the disciplinary letters, Olson said.
At the city attorney's request, Cecil stopped short of ordering the city to hand over more than the disciplinary letters, leaving that proposition for future court action.
The city has agreed to release the names and termination letters of two fired captains, who are fighting their dismissals, once their appeals to the city are resolved.
About the writer:
- The Bee's Elizabeth Hume can be reached at (916) 321-1203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.