Firefighter sues Annapolis in wake of sex-scandal probe

September 12, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- An Annapolis firefighter caught in the middle of a departmental sex scandal investigation that fizzled last year is suing the city for $12 million, charging defamation of character.

Firefighter Robert "Tommy" Thomas was fired after he was accused of having sex while on duty, but reinstated when officials discovered the investigator had sex with a woman involved in the case.

In the suit filed yesterday, Mr. Thomas charged that Annapolis officials deceived one witness, lied at news conferences and purposely made defamatory statements.

"As a direct result of the defendants' malicious and deliberate defamation he has become the subject of public scorn, embarrassment, jokes, ridicule and has sustained actual compensatory damages," the suit, filed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, claims.

Mr. Thomas, a 37-year-old vice president of the firefighters union, was one target of an 11-week investigation last year that involved four other firefighters and two city police officers.

The city accused them of having sex in the back of patrol cars and ambulances in the mid-1980s. Three firefighters were fired, and one firefighter and two police officers were suspended.

Mr. Thomas and Lt. Kenneth Rowe were reinstated in December after city officials learned that firefighter Dan A. Early, one of the investigators, once had sex while off-duty with a woman involved in the case.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins later concluded that the department's sex probe was "tainted," but said that did not mean the allegations were false. He left intact punishments for the others.

In the suit, Mr. Thomas, a 16-year veteran, charged that the city knew of Mr. Early's conflict, but used it as an excuse to cover up the fact they had no case.

Annapolis officials would not comment on the suit yesterday.

In the suit, Mr. Thomas charged that investigators "maliciously deceived at least one witness into fabricating a statement," then restated the lie to coerce admissions from firefighters. He also claimed that Deputy Fire Chief Charles W. Smith III pursued him because of "deep-rooted resentment and hatred" of his union activities.

The suit says that Fire Chief Edward P. Sherlock Jr. told Mr. Thomas at the end of a civil service hearing "that he knew that the accusations against [him] were untrue."

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