The State Worker

Cal Fire scandal widens to prostitution, unwanted sexual advances

A Cal Fire truck fords a stream as a wildland fire burns near Plymouth last year. The department faces allegations of boozing and sexual misconduct.
A Cal Fire truck fords a stream as a wildland fire burns near Plymouth last year. The department faces allegations of boozing and sexual misconduct. rbenton@sacbee.com

A Cal Fire assistant chief is accused of hooking up with prostitutes on his state cellphone and then taking a state vehicle to meet them, according to new records released to The Sacramento Bee.

Another firefighter was fired after claims of making graphic, unwanted sexual advances toward a woman at a bar and lying about it, according to the documents. A third employee is alleged to have condoned drinking on the job, the documents say.

Those events and others detailed in appeals released late Monday add new chapters to a tale of claimed boozing and sexual misbehavior among employees at the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s Ione academy. Cal Fire officials say two employees lost their jobs and 13 others suffered suspensions and demotions over acts discovered during a sweeping investigation sparked by a homicide.

According to Cal Fire employee documents obtained by The Bee, Assistant Chief Scott A. Henry used his state-issued phone “to make appointments with escorts to engage in sexual activities” and to access adult websites.

Henry admitted to investigators that he met the escorts at a hotel in downtown Sacramento “on 10 to 12 occasions,” the document states.

Cal Fire demoted Henry to battalion chief. After filing an appeal to the State Personnel Board – an act that made the details of his discipline public record – Henry withdrew the appeal, according to a letter in the disciplinary appeal file.

In a separate case, a department fire apparatus engineer, Timothy L. Edgmon, was fired after claims he’d forced himself physically on a woman at a bar during a cadet graduation celebration in April, according to Cal Fire disciplinary records released as part of the appeal. He also is accused of drinking alcohol at the event, in violation of department policy that bans drinking on the job, the records say.

After the woman at the bar rejected his verbal advances, Edgmon “grabbed (her) hips from behind and attempted to grind (his) groin into her buttocks,” according to the records.

The woman told investigators that after she pushed Edgmon away, she turned and observed him holding his penis “through an opened front zipper” and that he then thrust his hips forward, according to the disciplinary records.

Edgmon gave investigators different stories about what happened at the bar, according to the documents, before downplaying it as a joke and stating that his hands “might have been inside (his) belt loop or belt buckle.”

A third employee, Cole Periera, was demoted from fire captain at the academy to fire apparatus engineer for one year ending Feb. 1, 2016, according to the documents.

Cal Fire alleges that Periera consumed alcohol at three cadet graduation celebrations in 2013 and 2014 and allowed cadets to do the same, in violation of department rules that ban drinking on the job, according to documents included with his appeal.

Henry, Edgmon and Periera were ensnared by an investigation of the Ione academy last year after the slaying of 26-year-old Sarah Douglas on May 1. Her boyfriend, former Cal Fire Battalion Chief Orville Fleming, worked at the facility and is accused in the killing. He has pleaded not guilty.

As the Douglas investigation unfolded, Fleming’s wife claimed a sex tape had been shot at the academy. At Cal Fire’s request, the California Highway Patrol investigated, but its $2 million probe found no credible evidence such a tape existed. However, investigators did find other suspected improprieties.

Last week, the state released details about four other cases, including one termination. Those documents say the employees condoned sexual harassment of women, collected and displayed sexually explicit pictures on their state cellphones, drank while on duty and lied about their actions.

In all, the department has disciplined 15 employees, including two terminations. Another employee resigned.

Call Jon Ortiz, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1043.

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