Firefighter Says Firing Is Unfair

15-year Veteran Calls Investigation A Sham

December 08, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

An Annapolis firefighter on Friday denied having sex with a woman ina firehouse and an ambulance, saying he was unfairly fired because investigators accused him of lying about a sex scandal involving sevencity firefighters and police.

The attorney representing Robert "Tommy" Thomas called the city investigation a sham because, he said, it stripped the public safety officials of their rights by threateningthem with termination if they either lied or didn't cooperate.

"If you admitted you had sex, they believed you and you got a suspension," attorney Samuel Brown said. "If you denied having sex, theydidn't believe you and you were fired."

Thomas, a 15-year veteranof the department, is appealing his Nov. 21 firing before the city'sfive-member civil service board, which will continue hearing evidence tomorrow.

Thomas, a lieutenant and a battalion chief were fired.Four others, including the two police officers accused of having sexin their patrol cars, were suspended.

City officials testified that Thomas, 36, was fired because they believed he lied when asked if allegations of sexual misconduct in either 1985 or 1986 were true.

"We have not gone on any witch-hunts," City Attorney Jonathan Hodgson said. "Believe, me everybody would be just as happy if this never happened."

Hodgson said that although the sexual misconduct occurred five years ago, "the lying happened last month. And the lying will occur again today when he stands up and says he didn't do it."

Hodgson said firefighters were not allowed to have attorneys present during questioning and those who did not cooperate were told they could lose their jobs because the meetings were employee-employer related.

"We have not alleged that Mr. Thomas has broken any laws," Hodgsonsaid. "He is alleged to have broken a standard of conduct."

Details of the case have not been disclosed. Hodgson and the chairman of the civil service board, James R. Renfroe, refused to release interview transcripts, even though 10 were accepted into evidence.

City police and fire officials testified Friday that the investigation started when a witness came forward with alleged information about on-dutysex.

Deputy Fire Chief Charles Smith said that based on corroborating evidence, he believed Thomas lied to investigators. But he admitted not interviewing some people whom Brown said could help clear Thomas.

Brown said that city fire officials purposely avoided asking certain questions and recorded only selected portions of interviews.

The attorney also said investigators painted Thomas as a liar, while accepting statements from other firefighters who also denied having on-duty sex.

Hodgson said that all the firefighters and police officers who were disciplined had corroborating evidence against them."This investigation led to a number of names of employees who have been investigated," he said. "Only a few of them have been disciplined."

The city alleges that Thomas twice had sex while on duty five or six years ago. Hodgson said one time was in the Waterwitch Fire Station, which closed in 1987. He said Pamela Hopkins and Cheryl Hopkins-Boggs, both Annapolis residents, came to the station and Hopkins andLt. Eden Avery -- who has been suspended -- went into a back room.

However, Brown said that Avery -- who was not married at

the time -- and Hopkins were only gone a short time. Avery told investigators no sex occurred because he could not perform. He said in his statement that Thomas and Hopkins-Boggs were on the couch watching TV the entire time.

The second alleged sexual encounter occurred at the same fire station in the back of an ambulance, Hopkins said. He said Karen Dawson and Hopkins-Boggs went to the station, and Dawson met withAvery. Dawson testified that she and Avery had sex in the back of the ambulance.

Dawson said she only saw Hopkins-Boggs and Thomas together talking outside. She said she did not see them get into the ambulance.

But Sgt. Stanly Malm, an internal affairs officer with theAnnapolis Police Department, testified that during a telephone conversation, Dawson told him that Hopkins-Boggs said she and Thomas had sex in the ambulance.

Brown pointed out that in Hopkins-Boggs' statement, the woman never said she was in an ambulance with Thomas. In her statement, she said she had sex with another firefighter, who has not been disciplined in the case.

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