Two California firefighters dismissed, 13 punished in ethics probe

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 22, 2015 1:19 PM

By Daniel Wallis

(Reuters) - Two California firefighters were dismissed and 13 others punished, following an investigation into a former fire chief who was accused of stabbing his fiancée to death and then going on the run for two weeks, officials said on Thursday.

Police say Orville "Moe" Fleming confessed to stabbing his live-in girlfriend Sarah Douglas at their Sacramento home. He was arrested last May and is charged with murder.

After Fleming's estranged wife alleged that firefighters were having sex with prostitutes at the state fire academy, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection asked the California Highway Patrol to launch an ethics investigation.

The accusations about prostitutes were found to be baseless, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said on Thursday, but the probe uncovered unrelated cases of employees violating departmental policies, ranging from dishonesty to misuse of state equipment and misuse of state time.

Berlant said 16 employees had been placed on administrative leave since the end of December. Two of them were terminated, he said in a statement, one resigned, and 13 face punishments that include suspension, demotion, and pay cuts.

The Cal Fire director, Chief Ken Pimlott, said the investigation brought to light the actions of a few individuals who had violated the public's trust.

"We are pursuing the disciplinary process to the furthest extent allowed," he said in a statement. "This type of behavior will not be tolerated."

The highway patrol's probe began after Fleming, who was a Cal Fire battalion chief, led police on a two-week manhunt after they discovered Douglas's body.

He was eventually arrested by a detective who spotted him getting off a bus in South Sacramento. He told investigators he had been hiding in bushes near where he was caught.

Fleming had been fired as battalion chief for failing to come in to work since the day before Douglas's body was found.

(Reporting by Daniel Wallis in Denver; Editing by Bernadette Baum)