ANNAPOLIS -- Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins said yesterday that a Fire Department investigation of on-duty sex among city firefighters was "tainted" and reversed the firing of a 24-year veteran lieutenant implicated in the probe.
But he maintained that although Lt. Kenneth Rowe is the second firefighter whose firing in the sex scandal has been reversed, the investigation of other fire and police officers in the scandal was sound because several have admitted involvement.
Mr. Hopkins said the acknowledgment by a fire investigator last month that he had had sex while off duty with a woman involved in the case "gives cause for critics to correctly call the investigation tainted, but they are not correct in assuming all the facts are also tainted."
"It should not escape notice that four individuals have admitted their guilt and accepted disciplinary action," he said in a written statement that resulted from his own investigation of the Fire Department's handling of the scandal. "This is a clear indication of the validity of much of the investigatory process."
However, Mr. Hopkins said he agrees with critics that fire investigators were ill-equipped to handle an internal probe.
"It has been often said our Fire Department is much like a big family," he said. "But that does not and cannot excuse turning a blind eye to breaches of conduct."
He said the Police Department's internal affairs section will be responsible for handling such investigations in the future.
Lieutenant Rowe's attorney, Ron Baradel, said his client will return to work as soon as possible.
He said Lieutenant Rowe has not been charged "in anything to do with having sexual relations while on duty as have been reported in the media and inferred by the city." He said that his client was charged in a "totally unrelated incident" and that he has denied that charge. He would not comment further.
Lieutenant Rowe was to be fired Nov. 21, but the city withdrew the pink slip after his attorney complained it was too vague. It said he was fired for "prohibited sexual misconduct" and for lying about it to investigators.
A new termination slip, which has not been made public, was then issued, with a Jan. 2 firing date.
Mr. Baradel called for Lieutenant Rowe's reinstatement Dec. 11, two days after firefighter Robert "Tommy" Thomas was cleared of charges that he twice had sex while on duty with a woman four or five years ago.
The city dropped the charges against Mr. Thomas after a woman recanted her testimony during an appeals hearing, denying she saw Mr. Thomas get in the back of an ambulance with a woman as she had told investigators.
Fire Chief Edward P. Sherlock also learned that fire investigator Dan Early once had sex during off-duty hours with a woman described as "central to the allegations." Mr. Baradel said Mr. Early also investigated Lieutenant Rowe.
Mayor Hopkins said yesterday that Mr. Early "should have been candid very early in the process" about his relationship with the woman. He said there "seems to be some evidence to suggest that management knew of the investigator's conflict, but proceeded nonetheless." Mr. Hopkins refused to identify "management" or elaborate.
Although Mr. Hopkins' statement says the "entire episode" is closed, two other firefighters have appeals pending.
The attorney for Battalion Chief James Jones, whom city officials fired after charging he knew about the misconduct but did nothing, said he has appealed only to clear his name. Chief Jones retired before his termination took effect.
Lt. Eden Avery, who was suspended for 30 days, also awaits the outcome of an administrative appeal.
Firefighter Scott Baer and police officers Darryle Hall and Peter Medley were suspended for 30 days.
Annapolis Alderman Carl O. Snowden, who has criticized the Fire Department's investigation, said the mayor's statement "is an admission of them bungling the investigation."