TFD captain demoted; sexual assaults alleged

Firefighter files claim against city; taxpayers might have to pay $500K
2013-03-02T00:00:00Z 2013-03-02T14:23:36Z TFD captain demoted; sexual assaults allegedDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 02, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Lewd behavior at a Tucson fire station that a firefighter has called a sexual assault resulted in the demotion of a captain and could cost taxpayers $500,000, records show.

Paramedic firefighter Cody Jenkins filed a notice of claim against the city Feb. 19. It says Roger Sloan Tamietti, then a captain, "physically and sexually assaulted Jenkins multiple times" Nov. 9.

In addition to demoting him to paramedic, the city of Tucson filed three misdemeanor charges against Tamietti. Two of them, an assault and a harassment charge, stem from the alleged incident in November. The other is an assault charge from an unknown incident that occurred in September.

Tamietti is appealing his demotion, saying the punishment was excessive and the some of the testimony was a "lie or greatly exaggerated."

At issue is what occurred Nov. 9 when Jenkins, who is a roaming paramedic, was assigned to Fire Station 7, on East Pima Street near North Swan Road.

Jenkins had returned from a call about 10 a.m. Nov. 9 when Tamietti tackled him and knocked him over the back of a couch at the station, according to city records. Jenkins' face was pushed against the couch pillows and his legs were sticking up in the air. Tamietti then "straddled" Jenkins and "forcibly humped and ground" against him, the claim states.

Tamietti admitted to investigators he threw Jenkins on the couch, but denied committing a lewd act.

Tamietti said he was just "horseplaying" to make Jenkins feel more comfortable and treat him like he was one of the guys. Tamietti said he never intended to hurt or humiliate Jenkins.

Three witnesses saw Tamietti tackle Jenkins on the couch, but none reflected the "severity of what Jenkins said he was subjected to" when interviewed by city investigators. Nonetheless, the investigators found Tamietti's conduct violated city policy.

Jenkins said he felt dirty and violated by the tackling incident and decided to take a shower.

After the shower, Jenkins was walking back to his room with a towel wrapped around him when Tamietti approached him and "struck him on the buttocks."

Tamietti said the tap on the buttocks wasn't meant to humiliate Jenkins, but was akin to a ballplayer congratulating a teammate after a good play by swatting him on the derriere.

A third incident occurred later that day.

Jenkins was working on the computer in the captain's office. Jenkins alleges Tamietti spoke briefly with him before Tamietti - who was clothed - put his foot on the computer desk and placed his groin against the back of Jenkins' head. Jenkins said Tamietti began "rubbing and moving back and forth in thrusts." Jenkins said when he tried to resist, Tamietti grabbed Jenkins' head and pulled it back against his groin.

Tamietti denied this. The other witness in the room at that time said he didn't see Tamietti do anything. Jenkins reported the incident to supervisors, who then opened an investigation.

"The Tucson Fire Department was made aware of an incident involving members of the department," Assistant Fire Chief Joe Gulotta said in an email. "The incident was thoroughly investigated by the city of Tucson, and the Fire Department. It was determined that a supervisor's behavior was inappropriate. For his actions, the supervisor was demoted in rank."

Jenkins' claim says he "sustained serious and ongoing psychological damages and injuries" related to the Nov. 9 incident and was seeing a psychologist. It says Jenkins has "sustained a loss of earnings and is psychologically unable to go back to work due to his fear of further retaliation."

The claim, which typically precedes a lawsuit, also said Jenkins was bullied and harassed several years ago when he was assigned to Fire Station 7 for a six-month probationary period. During that time he was duct-taped to a pole, tripped intentionally by other firemen causing him to fall and injure himself, and abused verbally by other firefighters.

Jenkins said employees shouldn't have to be subjected to that kind of environment.

"I don't want to worry about getting mounted by my supervisor," Jenkins said, according to city documents.

"The incident was thoroughly investigated. It was determined that a supervisor's behavior was inappropriate. For his actions, the supervisor was demoted in rank."

Joe Gulotta, assistant fire chief

'Alpha-male' environment

The series of Nov. 9 incidents that led to a $500,000 claim against the city was not the only time city investigators found that questionable hijinks occurred at Fire Station 7.

The investigation revealed an "alpha male-type" atmosphere where lewd behavior, vulgar language and more were a part of the daily routine.

Some of what investigators found included:

• Homophobic and racial slurs used frequently by TFD employees.

• Tamietti once jumped out of the shower naked and surprised a firefighter. He called the firefighter a "meat-gazer" for looking at him.

• Tamietti exposed himself to another firefighter for no apparent reason.

• Tamietti and two other firefighters did a gyrating dance in their underwear two to three inches from a firefighter who was making a salad dressing for dinner.

• Butt-slapping was common.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com On Twitter @DarrenDaRonco.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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