SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane fire chief and the local firefighters’ union are at odds over a calendar of suggestive photos posted at a fire station back in March.
A human resources analyst for the City of Spokane received a report about the calendar, which was posted in fire station 15 and featured firefighters from station 4.
Through a public records request, 4 News Now obtained photos included on the calendar as well as the notice sent to the station's fire captain.
The photos show members from Station 4 posing in sexually suggestive ways with city equipment and resources. In the initial letter, the city analyst said it is believed the calendar may have been produced utilizing city internet/intranet systems and sold to other members of the fire department.
The calendar first came to light when a city employee was giving a tour of the station to children. The employee asked the fire crew to take it down before the kids came through. That's when the case went to the city for an investigation.
At the time, the city said the allegations of using city resources, if deemed true, would be in direct violation of the Code of Ethics, Admin Police and Civil Service Rule VIII, which involves violation of written personnel policies, conduct unbecoming of an officer or city employee and solicitation of funds for unauthorized purposes.
"They're all public access vehicles," said Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer of the trucks and equipment on which the firefighters, who were off the clock, posed. "We're all stewards of those tax dollars and the people's expectations and, quite frankly, the people in our community expect the best. They expect better."
A civil service investigation determined the firefighters did not violate policy, but those involved in the calendar were "counseled" by the department, saying they needed to understand that the content was inappropriate and that they needed to avoid behavior like that in the future.
Local 29 represents the firefighters. Local 29 President Tim Archer said the calendar was for a muscular dystrophy fundraiser and was intended to be a satirical take on the 'sexy firefighter' calendars that other departments have made.
He says Chief Schaeffer's reaction to the calendar and the firefighters who posed in it is actually retaliation for speaking out against him.
"One of the members that made the calendar has written articles we published in our newsletter that have opposed some of the articles the chief has published publicly," Archer said. "It did not warrant an investigation that caused people to fear for their jobs for several months."
Archer takes issue with the fact that the department did not speak with the firefighters who posted the calendar.
"The logic doesn't pan out that if the problem is, the material's offensive, then why weren't the members who displayed the materials talked to?," Archer said. "I would say the conflict between myself and our fire chief right now is not about the calendar, it's about retaliation and reprisal against members who vocalize their criticisms against the chief."
Chief Schaeffer disagrees.
"That's unfortunate that that feeling [about retaliation] has been conveyed," Chief Schaeffer said. "However, the fact is, the organization does not support and did not support the calendar."
Chief Schaffer also said this is about changing the culture of the fire department.
"Granted, 25 years ago, it may have been a different world. Today, where we are now, with our focus on constantly improving and working on our inclusive culture, that importance of treating everybody fairly, we can't just allow it to occur."
"There's been so many conversations around the kitchen table and in our organization about the expectations, I feel pretty confident that we're not going to have this problem again," Chief Schaeffer said.
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