A Tucson fire captain demoted over sexual assault allegations by a former firefighter had his rank restored on Monday.
The city's Civil Service Commission voted unanimously to restore Roger Sloan Tamietti's rank after the commission members determined the punishment exceeded the offense.
"It was intense. It was a long six months since it all started. It's just a relief that everything worked out like it did," Tamietti said after his hearing. "I'm just excited to get back to work and get back to the station with the guys again."
Tamietti lost his rank and had three misdemeanor charges filed against him earlier this year when Tucson Fire Department officials determined he acted "inappropriately" with a subordinate during a series of incidents on Nov. 9.
Former TFD paramedic Cody Jenkins alleged Tamietti pinned him to a couch and performed a lewd act on him in front of other firefighters. Jenkins also claimed Tamietti harassed him on two other occasions that day. Jenkins, who resigned in April, filed a $500,000 claim against the city in February. The City Council approved a $125,000 settlement offer about two weeks ago.
Tamietti fought back tears while testifying Monday. He said he was "embarrassed" and "ashamed" when he found out allegations were leading to a demotion. But he defended himself throughout the ordeal by saying "horseplay" and "roughhousing" are a normal part of life at a Tucson firehouse, and he never intended to hurt or humiliate anyone.
During his hearing, numerous fellow firefighters' testimony confirmed Tamietti's description of firehouses. Firefighters from paramedics to battalion chiefs who were sworn under oath said roughhousing was part of the culture.
While Tamietti admitted to throwing Jenkins on the couch, he denied ever performing a lewd act.
Despite fellow firefighters being in the room in all but one instance, not one witness could corroborate Jenkins' claim of lascivious behavior. Many firefighters said they had seen or been on the receiving end of Jenkins' rough play. Tamietti said Jenkins had pushed him just a few days before the Nov. 9 incident, but it was common for guys to engage in that type of behavior and everyone, ostensibly, accepted it.
TFD chief Jim Critchley said the department has been trying to clean up its frat-house image over the years and said Tamietti's actions justified the stiff penalty.
But after two days of testimony, the commission disagreed and said there wasn't enough evidence to support such a severe punishment.
Commission members cited lack of witness corroboration, dubious investigative methods and improper application of TFD's own code as some of the reasons why they voted in favor of reinstatement.
Commission member Penny MacArthur said Tamietti shouldn't have been made a scapegoat for the department's larger issues.
The commission did suspend Tamietti 15 days without pay as punishment for his actions.
Critchley said he doesn't blame Tamietti for thinking horseplay is acceptable at work. He said the real culprit is an environment at TFD that condoned such behavior for decades.
"I truly didn't want to put anybody in this position, or put Chief Critchley in this position again," Tamietti said. "It's been such an uncomfortably trying time for me at work, at home, just stressful all around. I just hope I get the opportunity to help somebody else out so they're never in this spot."
City Attorney Mike Rankin said the commission's ruling will have no bearing on the settlement offer, which he said has been submitted to Jenkins' attorney but not finalized yet.
The three misdemeanor charges are still pending against Tamietti.
Contact reporter Darrein DaRonco at 573-4243 or email@example.com.