I Won't Resign, Annapolis Fire Chief Tells Irate Union

Sherlock Makes 'No Apology' For Handling Of Sex Probe

January 05, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

The Annapolis fire chief has rejected a demand by the firefighters union that he resign, saying he isn't sorry for his handling of an investigation into charges that firefighters had sex on duty.

"It remained my responsibility to determine what did happen so corrective action might be taken," Chief Edward P. Sherlock Jr. said. "I make no apology for doing my duty."

The union, which represents 89 city firefighters, held a news conference Friday on the steps of City Hall, accusing Sherlock and his deputy of botching the investigation and warning of a no-confidence vote.

Union lawyer Bill Thompson also charged that city officials knew from the start of their 11-week inquiry that the firefighter they chose to help investigate the case could himself become a witness.

Sherlock was forced to throw out charges against firefighter Robert "Tommy" Thomas last month when he learned that the investigator, Dan A. Early, once had sex with a woman involved in the case.

"Who gave the orders to keep him on this investigation?" asked Thompson, the lawyer for union Local 1926. "Where was the administration? Where wasthe mayor? Where was the mayor's staff? Where was the city attorney?Who is running this thing?"

The union president, Lt. John Morgan,said it is difficult for firefighters to work under current management.

"At this time, we are performing our duty as best we can underthe situation," he said. "The firefighters are looking over their shoulder. They are afraid to do their job -- if they make a mistake they may be brought up on charges.

"We want the mess straightened out," Morgan said.

"We want a new chief and a new deputy chief. That is what we want. I don't see how we can put it any plainer."

Sherlock, in a statement released Friday afternoon, called the union's statements "personally and professionally regretable. The only vote of confidence I require is the confidence of the mayor of the city of Annapolis, and he has given me that vote in a recent statment to the press."

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins acknowledged last Tuesday that the investigation was "tainted" because of Early's conflict and said "thereseems to be some evidence to suggest that management knew of the investigator's conflict, but proceeded nonetheless."

The mayor then reinstated Lt. Kenneth Rowe, a 24-year veteran who had been implicatedin the scandal and fired.

But Hopkins maintained that the investigation of other fire and police officers -- accused of having sex in patrol cars and in the back of ambulances four or five years ago -- was sound because several had admitted involvement when they were questioned.

Two city police officers and five firefighters were originally disciplined as a result of the probe.

Battalion Chief James Jones, whom the city says knew of the misconduct but did nothing, retired before his termination could take effect. He is appealing to clear his name.

Lt. Eden Avery, who was suspended, is awaiting the outcome of an administrative appeal. Firefighter Scott Baer and police officers Peter Medley and Darryle Hall were suspended for 30 days. Thomas -- who also was fired -- was reinstated along with Rowe.

But union lawyer Thompson said reinstating Rowe "is no favor to us" because the city had no case to begin with. He called on Hopkins to show some leadership.

"Our problem with the mayor's statement is that having discovered the mess his managers have created, he is now doing absolutely nothing about it," Thompson said, adding that Hopkins ordered sensitivity training for managers.

Hopkins, in a statement released Friday afternoon, said he had full confidence in both Sherlock and Smith.

"Any attempt by any person or group to deflect the focus of this matter to the leadership of the Fire Department and away fromthe misconduct of a few city employees should be seen for exactly what it is," the statement says.

"I regret the entire episode ever happened, but what would those who criticize the fire chief have him do -- ignore the allegations? . . . In my opinion, the management of the Fire Department is doing a good job."

Thompson disagreed and said the investigation was conducted with "an utter lack of respect" for the people involved.

"Members of the Annapolis Fire Department have been subjected to week after week of accusations, insinuations, allegations and ridicule," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of this firestorm was based on rumor and fueled by rumor."

He said Thomas' hearing "finally forced the city administration to face the facts: There are no facts to support the wild-eyed allegations of rampant and pervasive sexual misconduct in the Fire Department.

"Finally, the citizens of this city saw what months of investigation by the chief and the deputy chief had produced: a complete embarrassment.

At the news conference, the union also released a two-page statment by Early, who was not available for questions.

In the statement, Early said he was appointed to the case when Capt. Albert Baer stepped down afterhis son, Scott Baer, was implicated.

"As the investigation progressed, I became aware that I would be a witness in the case," Early stated, adding that he told both Sherlock and Smith of his conflict.

"At that point, my own opinion was that I should not be involved in this investigation at all. Neither Sherlock nor Smith indicated any concern."

Early said that a week later, he was taken off the case, then put back on the next week and ordered to sit in on all interviews with firefighters.

"Several times during the course of the interviews, I reiterated to Sherlock and Smith that I would probably be a witness in this matter. They indicated that, 'That is OK.' I remainedinvolved throughout the remainder of the investigation against my better judgment."

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