September 21, 2017 - 2:19 pm
Updated September 21, 2017 - 6:51 pm
City of Las Vegas officials are investigating allegations that a firefighter violated department rules by having sex at a fire station, mere months after claims of widespread sexual misconduct by personnel.
A document obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which outlines the allegations, says some supervisors tried to cover up the rendezvous by intimidating a whistleblower.
The investigation, confirmed by the city Wednesday, comes amid inquiries from the Review-Journal about an Aug. 21 incident at Fire Station 9 in northwest Las Vegas. The allegations were made by a fellow firefighter.
“I did what we have been instructed to do, but now I am being threatened by captains and being portrayed as the problem,” the whistleblower wrote in the document. “The entire situation is proof of the culture that exists. If you report these types of issues, you will be bullied, intimidated and threatened.”
At one point, as the whistleblower went up the chain of command with the allegations, one fire captain told him to “shut the f—- up,” the firefighter wrote.
The whistleblower said in the document that a woman spent several hours at the station, including time behind closed curtains in the dorm area. Her daughter, who appeared to be “of high school age,” spent some time at the firehouse too, he said.
At about 1:30 p.m., after he walked up to a closed curtain in the dorm, he called out the name of the other firefighter, then realized there was also a woman in the room.
“You could hear her moving around and what sounded like kissing,” he wrote.
Later, he encountered the couple in the TV room with the lights out. Eventually, the woman and her daughter had dinner with the crew.
A week earlier, the whistleblower said, the firefighter told him “the other night we had sex in the TV room.”
The firefighter denied any misconduct in a brief phone interview.
“I did not violate any policy. I’ll talk to you later,” he told the Review-Journal before hanging up.
The whistleblower could not be reached for comment.
Promising a thorough probe
Las Vegas Fire Department Chief William McDonald declined a request for an interview but confirmed the investigation in a written statement.
“We take allegations of this type very seriously and are looking into it thoroughly,” he said. “As I stated back in May there is zero tolerance in the Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Department for unauthorized visits or inappropriate behavior within our fire stations.”
David Riggleman, the city’s communications director, said allegations of a cover-up would also be examined.
“We’re going to make sure we do a thorough investigation,” he said. “There are a lot of moving parts in this, a lot of different things being said by different people. We’ve got to get to the bottom line of what happened.”
Any unauthorized visit would be a violation of Fire Department policy, regardless of whether sex was involved, he said.
Riggleman said the Fire Department, the city’s human resources department and the city manager’s office are involved in the investigation.
History of allegations
Earlier this year, a former Las Vegas emergency medical technician told the Review-Journal that sex was commonplace inside fire stations across the valley.
The technician, Mallissa Barthule, estimated that she had sex in 13 different fire stations between 2008 and 2015. After the newspaper inquired about her allegations, McDonald promised to investigate claims of sexual activity at the firehouses. He said the department would install security cameras at all 20 stations in an effort to thwart sexual misconduct.
City officials denied a Review-Journal request for documents related to violations of department rules that prohibit sex while on duty.
In April, former Capt. Richard Loughry was charged with having sex with a 15-year-old prostitute inside Station 47. Loughry, who resigned from the department, faces eight felony charges and remains free on $25,000 bail. According to a criminal complaint, Loughry paid $300 for sex with the girl.
Call for new rules
Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony, whose district includes Station 9, said he was briefed Tuesday on the sex allegations.
Councilman Bob Coffin, an advocate for shorter shifts for firefighters, said officials also informed him Tuesday about the complaint.
“I think that strengthens my case for shorter days — 8-, 10-, 12-hour shifts, rather than 24s,” Coffin said.
Riggleman said the city’s rule prohibiting sex at a station has been on the books for about 25 years.
“Certainly, it would be inappropriate in any workplace for sexual activity to take place, especially in an environment where you’re supposed to be prepared for an emergency on a moment’s notice,” he said.
The city also could face large legal settlements if a visitor were injured or decided to claim sexual harassment or rape.
Eric Littmann, president of Las Vegas Firefighters Local 1285, declined to comment Wednesday on the allegations.
“I can’t speak on any disciplinary matter, whatsoever,” Littmann said.
In his document, the whistleblower described his frustration as he tried for three weeks to get an array of supervisors to deal with the firehouse incident.
One battalion chief said he was glad the man had “stood up for what was right,” and he hoped others within the department would do the right thing, the document said.
But the captain who told him to keep his mouth shut disparaged him with co-workers for speaking out.
In a confrontational phone call, the captain accused him of going behind his back to another supervisor.
“He then states that we all have a list of people we know we can’t trust and must watch our back with and now I am one of those people,” the whistleblower wrote. “I asked him how am I not trustworthy because I reported a situation that I am required to report or I could be terminated for not reporting?”
“The entire call was full of attempts to intimidate me or retaliation threats,” he added.
Word got back to the whistleblower that another captain was saying he had mishandled the matter and had no proof.
Another battalion chief gave him the impression he wished the incident had not been reported, the document said. The same supervisor suggested the whistleblower should have confronted the firefighter about the sexual misconduct claims and not gone up the chain of command.
“I told him this wasn’t like (the firefighter) was late to work,” the whistleblower said. “Sex in the station is a big deal and I did what I needed to do.”
Contact Jeff German at email@example.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter. Contact Jamie Munks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0340. Follow @JamieMunksRJ on Twitter. Contact David Ferrara at email@example.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter. Reporter Anita Hassan contributed to this story.