Firehouse Sex Scandal Probe Finds Itself Questioned

Officials Call For Review Of Investigation That Led To Discipline

December 22, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

What began as a private family squabble has become a public embarrassment for the Annapolis Fire Department.

Seven weeks ago, city officials believed their investigation into firefighters and police officers having sex while on duty was over.

Two women had admitted to having sex with on-duty firefighters. After an investigation, three firefighters had been fired and two others suspended. Two police officers also were disciplined.

Then flaws in the city's investigation began surfacing.

One firefighter gothis job back nearly two weeks ago when the city fire chief learned an investigator once had sex with a woman involved in the case. Now another firefighter says he wants charges against him dropped for the same reason.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, who said in October the investigation was conducted in a "highly professional, thorough and efficient manner," has started talking to department heads to see what wentwrong.

Hopkins said he met with Fire Chief Edward P. Sherlock Jr.and Lt. John Morgan, president of the firefighters union, and came up with seven questions he wants answered about the investigation.

He won't say what the questions are, but believes he could have answers this week. "There are a number of people I have to talk to in the city to discuss my concerns," Hopkins said.

Alderman Carl Snowden,D-Ward 5, has said that charges against any firefighter who has not agreed to accept his punishment should be dropped. Alderman Theresa DeGraff, chairwoman of the city's public safety committee, said the fire department's investigative team was ill-equipped to handle the internal investigation.

Early news conferences made no reference to names or specific sexual encounters and gave a vague time frame of four or five years ago. Full details of the investigation have never been divulged by Annapolis officials. But transcripts released by the city of October interviews with some firefighters and three women give a glimpse of the investigation and detail the accusations.

In interviews with department investigators, Cheryl Hopkins-Boggs, 27, of Arnold, said she had sex with a firefighter in the back room of a fire station. She also said she and another woman had oral sex with another firefighter.

"I didn't want to get anyone into trouble," she told a reporter last week. "I never expected this thing to go as far as it did."

Going public

The transcripts say the episode was sparked by infidelity and a family feud. Hopkins-Boggs' father, Donald, tried to convince his brother, Randy Hopkins, that Randy's wife, Pamela, was involved in what one investigator referred to as "all this."

Cheryl Hopkins-Boggs, in a short and limited interview last week, said the transcripts do not tell the entire story about her relationship with Pamela, her aunt by marriage.

"There is a lot more going onthan that," she said. "My father was trying to save the family."

Hopkins-Boggs would not elaborate.

Donald Hopkins was threatened with a slander suit, and one of the sides hired a private detective. That detective apparently told Annapolis police.

Internal Affairs officers from the Annapolis Police Department contacted Hopkins-Boggs,who told investigators about the alleged sexual activity.

From there, the investigation grew. Interviews with Hopkins-Boggs, Pamela Hopkins and a third woman, Karen Dawson, revealed a sex scandal that implicated two police officers and at least nine firefighters.

Dawson is Pamela Hopkins' cousin by marriage.

How the women came to know the firefighters has not been revealed. Hopkins-Boggs said relations with firefighters started in 1985.

The city said it found corroborating evidence against five of thefirefighters.

Battalion Chief James Jones, Lt. Kenneth Rowe and Firefighter Robert Thomas were fired.

Jones, whom city officials said knew about the misconduct but did nothing, retired before his termination took effect; Rowe is appealing; Thomas was reinstated Dec. 9.

Lt. Eden Avery and FirefighterScott Baer were suspended. Avery is going through administrative appeals. Baer has not filed an appeal.

Police officers Darryle Hall and Peter Medley were each suspended 30 days.

Investigation

Police Sgt. Stanley Malm conducted the investigation on the police side and sat in on some of the firefighter interviews.

Deputy Chief Charles Smith was in charge for the Fire Department. The first fire investigator, Capt. Albert Baer, stepped aside when his son, Scott, was implicated.

The firefighters were told they could not have a lawyer during interrogations and were threatened with being fired for insubordination if they refused to answer questions. Telling the truth, they were told, would not cost them their jobs.

"What you are faced with is not being dismissed if you tell the truth," Deputy Chief Smithtold Lt. Eden Avery, who has been suspended for 30 days.

(Firefighters, unlike police, do not have a bill of rights that allows them to have attorneys present during administrative hearings.)

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