The Hopkins administration stands behind the investigation that led to the dismissal of three firefighters, despite a letter from a unionleader blasting its handling of the sexual misconduct scandal.
"Frankly, it was one of the better-handled investigations I've ever heard of," said City Attorney Jonathan Hodgson, Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins'appointed spokesman for questions on the public safety sex scandal. "It went on for eight to 10 weeks without even people in the department knowing about it."
Professional Fire Fighters Local 1926 President John L. Morgan attacked Fire Chief Edward P. Sherlock Jr. last week in a letter addressed to Hopkins. He criticized the chief's "totally unprofessional" handling of the investigation of charges that firefighters were involved in on-duty sexual misconduct six years ago.
One of the dismissedfirefighters was union Vice President Robert T. Thomas. His appeal before the Civil Service Board is to be heard at 9 a.m. Friday.
Morgan threatened to call for a vote of no-confidence in Sherlock from the union, unless the mayor schedules a meeting to settle differences.
But no such meeting has been planned. The mayor said yesterday that, since he hasn't been involved in any stage of the investigation, he doesn't believe it would be appropriate for him to respond to the letter.
"I have no role to play. It is the responsibility of the city attorney who took part in it," Hopkins said. "I have no obligation, am not responsible, nor am I qualified to review that investigation."
Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, who has publicly announcedhis intention to run for mayor against Hopkins, says solving the "potentially damaging crisis" in the fire department should be a priority for the mayor.
"Now is the time for the administration to demonstrate prudent and effective leadership," he said. Snowden has urged both Sherlock and union members to attend the City Council's Dec. 16 meeting.
Sherlock had no comment on the situation.
Hodgson said he would advise Sherlock against addressing questions at the council meeting.
"I don't think it's appropriate for the chief of the department to be called to answer questions in that forum," Hodgson said,"because no real resolution could come from that meeting."
All sides of the controversy say Thomas' public hearing Friday before the five-member Civil Service Board will reveal a lot about the strength of the city's investigation. Two of the three women allegedly involvedin the on-duty sexual misconduct have been subpoenaed for that hearing.
Lawyers representing Thomas and 24-year veteran Lt. Kenneth Rowe have claimed that the investigation was incomplete, or that the evidence for the charges against the disciplined officers has not been sufficient.
"The evidence used against my client in this case was so incredibly flimsy as to be non-existent," said Ronald Baradel, whois representing Rowe.
Rowe was given a new pink slip Monday, containing detailed evidence of the charges made by a private citizen against him, Baradel said. The city was forced to revoke a previous pinkslip that contained only general accusations that Rowe engaged in "prohibited sexual conduct" and did not "answer questions truthfully."
In addition to Rowe and Thomas, Battalion Chief James Jones was forced to retire for knowing of but not stopping the alleged sexual misconduct. Two other firefighters and two police officers received 30-day suspensions and demotions in rank for their alleged involvement.