One Sacramento firefighter resigned and three others were sent termination letters Monday, five weeks after they were accused of having group sex at their station house in Hollywood Park, the fire chief said.
The resignation of firefighter Krista Duval, the lone woman accused of participating in consensual sex at Station 12, ended the city's attempt to discipline the 10-year veteran, Fire Chief Julius "Joe" Cherry said.
The termination letters sent to Duval's three male colleagues - a captain and two firefighters - are the first steps in what could be a lengthy disciplinary process, Cherry said.
"A notice of intent is not, in fact, a termination but rather a procedural step in the process of discipline," Cherry said.
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"They now have to go through the civil service process. We will go through the process and keep the public informed of what takes place."
The accusations of on-duty group sex were the latest in a string of scandals for Sacramento firefighters, who have been disciplined for drinking on duty, giving joy rides to women on firetrucks and attending a "Porn Star Costume Ball."
The four Station 12 firefighters have been on paid administrative leave since Jan. 21. Capt. Thomas De Bartoli and firefighters Doug Boan and Robby Cowen will remain on paid leave through the disciplinary process.
If Duval had not resigned, she would have faced the "same level of discipline," Cherry said.
Duval and Cowen could not be reached for comment Monday. De Bartoli and Boan refused to comment.
The investigation, which began in January, involves at least three incidents of consensual group sex, in Station 12 and on a fire engine.
The incidents date to February 2003 and appeared to end early last fall, Cherry said.
Fire Department investigators have interviewed about 15 people regarding the accusations of group sex. The investigation has not found any other participants, Cherry said.
"They were very good at concealing it," Cherry said. "There's no evidence to suggest that this has spread beyond the four people involved."
The reports of misconduct in the Fire Department became public July 3 after a female photographer alleged that a firefighter sexually assaulted her outside the costume ball at the Radisson Hotel.
The District Attorney's Office did not press charges, but the woman has filed a claim - a precursor to a civil lawsuit - against the city and firefighters Thomas Mitchell and Scott Singleton.
Before Monday's events, 24 city firefighters and senior officers had been disciplined. Two resigned before they were terminated; two captains were fired; and five others negotiated "last chance" contracts with the city to place them on five years' probation after they received termination letters.
The three Station 12 firefighters will have an opportunity to dispute any allegations against them, according to the city's civil service rules. They cannot be removed from the payroll until they receive a document finalizing the discipline.
That process could take several weeks, Cherry said.
"Because they are on paid leave we want to get this done as soon as possible, but we do have to be reasonable and follow the law," Cherry said.
After eight months of investigations, Cherry said he hopes this latest round of discipline is the last.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," Cherry said.
"I think the Fire Department is beginning to make a turnaround. I will be very glad when this is behind us. However, we will continue to be vigilant in clearing up the misconduct and cleaning up the organization."
City Council members supported the fire chief and his disciplinary decisions Monday.
"I think Chief Cherry is doing a superb job," Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy said.
"I think we are on our way to the end of it, and I have a great deal of respect for the fire chief."
Councilman Kevin McCarty, elected four months before the scandals broke last year, said he supported Cherry and the decision to terminate the firefighters.
"If I were an employer, I would want to terminate employees who were behaving that way," McCarty said.
"I think they should be fired. That's the appropriate thing we should be doing."
About the writer:
- The Bee's Elizabeth Hume can be reached at (916) 321-1203 or email@example.com.