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Close watch on fire agency

A Sacramento Fire battalion chief with a reputation for fairness was named the head of the department's newly created internal affairs unit Thursday in a ceremony that also saw the promotions of 44 other firefighters.

Kim Iannucci will oversee the four-person Internal Affairs and Professional Standards unit, which is among the first in fire agencies nationwide. It was created in response to a series of scandals that have roiled the department in the past nine months.

Fire Chief Julius "Joe" Cherry also announced the creation of a fourth battalion chief position to allow closer supervision of each of the department's 22 fire stations, a job that had been split among three chiefs.

"What the city manager's office and the City Council has asked us is 'Where are the supervisors?' " said Sacramento Fire Battalion Chief Niko King, who was among those promoted Thursday. "Our answer has always been, 'It would be nice to have a fourth battalion' " chief.

Cherry's efforts to strengthen oversight of each individual station and create an internal investigation unit comes after a series of scandals involving more than two dozen firefighters.

Revelations of misconduct began in July when a woman reported that she had been sexually assaulted on a fire engine by an on-duty firefighter who was attending a "Porn Star Costume Ball" at the Radisson Hotel.

Although no charges were filed in the sexual assault case, the investigation sparked by her complaint snowballed as administrators learned that firefighters had attended the party, others had been drinking on duty and others had cruised bars on fire engines late at night.

On Jan. 24, an unrelated scandal further tarnished the department's reputation when Cherry announced four firefighters were being investigated for engaging in group sex in a fire station while on duty.

Earlier this month, 20 of the department's highest-ranking officials participated in a three-day seminar on internal affairs investigations in preparation for the launch of the new unit. Cherry said he hopes to have the unit fully running by summer.

"This is the first visible step to a change that's been talked about for several months now," King said of Iannucci's appointment. He said the chief has spearheaded several projects, including a committee on personal safety equipment, designed to improve professional standards.

Iannucci joined the Sacramento Fire Department in October 1981, became a captain in 1994 and was named the department's first female battalion chief in July 2001.

For the past four years, she has overseen the department's fire suppression unit. In her new role, she will investigate reports of employee misconduct, follow up on citizen complaints and review and revise department policies that address employee conduct.

"She is the perfect fit for this position," said King, the department's spokesman. "She's always been at the forefront of bringing the department to the next level."

Other promotions announced on Thursday include the naming of Battalion Chiefs Steve Ayala, Michael Balash, James Glass, Kristianne Seargeant and Craig Weidenhoeft.

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