Latest News

Fire agency probe widens

Several Sacramento firefighters are facing disciplinary action and possible termination after an expanded investigation into allegations of drinking on duty and inappropriate use of city vehicles.

Sacramento Deputy City Manager Richard Ramirez confirmed the Fire Department is looking into new allegations of firehouse misconduct that arose after two firefighters received letters of termination in July for attending a "Porn Star Costume Ball."

Ramirez would not comment on the details of the latest investigation but said more information will be released in coming weeks.

City and Fire Department sources said between four and seven firefighters could be dismissed in the next few weeks. The new allegations concern events that occurred before the July 2 costume ball.

Sacramento Fire Chief Julius "Joe" Cherry refused comment on possible disciplinary actions Friday. Since a July 27 press conference announcing the termination of two firefighters, Cherry has not commented publicly.

On Friday, Mayor Heather Fargo and City Council members expressed satisfaction with the investigation but said they are disappointed with some city firefighters' conduct.

"We've caught some people doing some bad things, misusing their authority and misusing public property," Fargo said. "That's not right. But I don't think that anybody thinks that it is a majority of firefighters. We just need to weed out some people."

City Councilman Steve Cohn said he's been told the latest investigation involves a small group of people who have been under scrutiny before for incidents at Oak Park's Station 6.

"From my understanding it is focused on some firefighters that we've had some previous issues with," Cohn said.

The latest allegations surfaced in August as authorities investigated why three city fire vehicles stopped by the costume party at the Radisson Hotel.

One captain and a firefighter were sent letters of termination after the July 2 event at the Radisson where several fire employees were seen and photographed celebrating with revelers in "porn star" costumes. Both are appealing the terminations, officials said.

Another firefighter resigned after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her outside the party in a Fire Department vehicle. The Sacramento County district attorney declined to prosecute the former firefighter, citing insufficient evidence.

The costume ball incident led to additional reports of misconduct by city firefighters, including drinking on duty, taking fire equipment to bars to meet women and providing "joy rides" on fire engines.

One firefighter facing possible termination has been on paid administrative leave since he attended the Radisson party while assigned to Engine 20 in North Sacramento. The same firefighter was previously investigated for taking an ambulance to Old Sacramento on New Year's Eve 2001 against orders.

He is one of at least two firefighters under investigation who call themselves "Orangemen," an informal group of firefighters who train and socialize together.

The Orangemen were at the center of an investigation two years ago into claims of harassment by a female firefighter at Station 6. Despite a lengthy investigation by city authorities, the allegations raised by Apparatus Operator Carol Irving have not been resolved.

Irving has filed a lawsuit against the city and one of the Orangemen, Eric Guida. The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in April. Irving has been on medical leave since spring 2003.

Guida's attorney, Bradley Thomas, said his client has not been linked to any of the latest incidents.

Irving's lawyer, Wendy York, said cruising for women in fire engines and trucks is not new. When Irving was a probationary firefighter in 1995 she was present when firefighters cruised for women around Arden Fair mall. York said she has interviewed other female firefighters who said they were pressured into taking fire vehicles to look at women at Paradise Island, an amusement park at Cal Expo.

"This was normal," York said. "It was the culture. Because nobody said this was inappropriate, it was assumed it was OK."

After the "porn star" ball incident, city officials announced the creation of a task force to review Fire Department policies. Cherry, who was appointed in June as the fire chief after 14 years as a line chief, is heading the task force.

Other members include Don Casimere, executive director of the Office of Public Safety Accountability; Martin Kolkin, city auditor; and representatives from labor relations and human resources.


About the Writer

---------------------------



The Bee's Elizabeth Hume can be reached at (916) 321-1203 or ehume@sacbee.com.

  Comments