Sunday, May 31, 2009

El Dorado County: GVFPD - Attacks and Counterattacks

El Dorado County fire district in turmoil over personnel disputes

Discrimination lawsuit filed

GARDEN VALLEY – In a picturesque corner of El Dorado County, amid rolling green hills and white picket fences and grazing chestnut horses, an ugly dispute is festering.

The grand jury has already poked around the Garden Valley Fire Protection District – twice since 2007 – but this time controversy is taking a decidedly personal turn.

The attacks and counterattacks include allegations of pornography on fire station computers, document burning, workplace harassment and retaliation, questionable finances, secret board meetings and personal vendettas.

Highlights:

  • Newfound knowledge that Fire Chief Bill Dekker has a history of brushes with the law.

  • Paul Bado, a 16-year veteran of the fire district, was placed on administrative leave in April 2008 and fired four months later for viewing Porn. In June, the 47-year-old gay firefighter will officially appeal his dismissal from the rural department north of Placerville."I'd like to remind you that I am gay. I have no need to look at porn female images," he said.

  • In March, Bado filed a discrimination and harassment suit based on sexual orientation against the fire district – including Dekker and a previous chief – alleging that he was paid less than the department's other fire captain.

  • The suit filed in El Dorado Superior Court also alleges that, once it became known in the department that Bado was gay, he was "subjected to ridicule, jokes, sexual innuendo, and given prejudicial names behind his back."

  • The department is one of 13 districts that provide fire protection in the county, which is weighing the delicate issue of consolidation – a word elected officials here use at their peril.

  • The fire district's former secretary has filed a wrongful termination claim and leveled her own charges against Dekker, alleging that the chief harassed her and that his conduct was outrageous.

  • Last year, the county's auditor-controller questioned a $469 pair of fire pants purchased from a company owned by the fire district's then-board chairman, according to local newspaper accounts.

  • The county's grand jury – which had reopened its investigation of fire district irregularities – concluded that two board members had received improper payments.

  • Even more contentious were the recent revelations about Dekker, who has had at least nine brushes with the law in the past 13 years – including a drunken driving conviction in Nevada, where he was accused of driving a fire department truck while intoxicated and clipping a volunteer firefighter.

  • "The whole thing is really sad," said Maria Capraun, the fire district's former secretary, who is seeking damages in her wrongful termination claim.

See whole article at : Sacramento Bee Article - Link

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