Suit alleges smear in fire sex scandal

October 16, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

A lieutenant in the Annapolis Fire Department hit the city with a $15 million suit yesterday, alleging he was wrongfully fired and then defamed by city officials who ensnarled him in a scandal accusing firefighters of having sex while on duty.

Lt. Kenneth E. Rowe Jr. alleges in the Circuit Court suit that fire officials were looking for an excuse to fire him. It alleges they based his Nov. 21, 1991 dismissal on dubious statements from firefighters about hearing sexual activity from a station office, and on the word of a former employee who had a "poor reputation for truth and honesty."

City Attorney Jonathan A. Hodgson declined to comment on the suit yesterday, saying he hadn't yet seen the 32-page complaint.

Lieutenant Rowe, a 25-year veteran of the Fire Department, is the second firefighter to sue the City of Annapolis as part of what the suit says became known as the "Great Annapolis Sex Scandal." Firefighter Robert "Tommy" Thomas, who was fired after he was accused of having sex while on duty, filed a $12 million suit against the city Sept. 11.

City officials disclosed evidence last November of male firefighters having sex with women while on duty. Mr. Thomas and Lieutenant Rowe were targets of an 11-week investigation last year that involved three other firefighters and two city police officers. The city accused the firefighters of having sex with women in the back of patrol cars, in station houses and in ambulances in the mid-1980s. Three firefighters were fired, and one firefighter and the two police officers suspended.

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

Lieutenant Rowe's suit names Mayor Hopkins, City Attorney Hodgson, Fire Chief Edward P. Sherlock Jr. and Deputy Chief Charles W. Smith III as co-defendants. Lieutenant Rowe and his wife Kimberly are listed as plaintiffs.

The suit alleges city officials "knew that without an opportunity to publicly clear his name, the public and members of Lieutenant Rowe's community would perceive the defendant's false, extreme and outrageous allegations of immorality and dishonesty against him to be true."

It says the dismissal came after Sheryl Hopkins Boggs claimed that Fire Department personnel had sex with her and other women while on duty. It says two firefighters told investigators they heard noises coming from the station captain's office they "thought" represented "some type of sexual activity going on" between Lieutenant Rowe and a woman in the office with him.

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