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Rossford Fire Chief James Verbosky plans to retire next month, after an investigation showed he sent sexually explicit text messages to a female city firefighter last month. His departure is appropriate.
Less proper was city officials’ decision to give the chief the option of resigning or retiring, rather than fire him for such tawdry behavior. That sends the message that punishment for similar misconduct may be neither swift nor just.
Mr. Verbosky was told in January that he would have to vacate his post; his last day on the job is March 14. Rossford Mayor Neil MacKinnon III said he wanted to express consideration for the chief’s long years of service, and to give the city time to find a replacement.
So someone who has sexually harassed a subordinate gets to leave on his timetable because his bosses want to show him respect and let him get his affairs in order? Mr. Verbosky behaved badly by sending what Mayor MacKinnon called “vulgar” messages to the firefighter.
The chief’s actions exceeded mere poor judgment. His bosses are complicit by choosing to protect him instead of booting him immediately.
Worse, city officials were ready to let Mr. Verbosky leave quietly. They would have gotten away with it, if an anonymous person had not gone to the Rossford fire station after hours last week and sent a fax notifying local news outlets of the investigation.
The person (or persons) who stepped out from behind the wall of silence to expose Mr. Verbosky’s inappropriate electronic dalliances deserves credit, not potential punishment for acting without authorization. Mayor MacKinnon’s statement that “I don’t know what type of person would do this to someone as they were walking out the door” suggests a lack of perspective, at the very least.
When will public officials realize that they cannot send sexually provocative emails, text messages, or pictures? And when will their enablers realize that such misbehavior can’t be covered up?
In recent years, a large number of elected and appointed officials have been forced to end their careers, very publicly, after they sent sexually explicit material to coworkers, mistresses, or Internet strangers. Sexting, as it is called, is distasteful, unprofessional, and immature.
Public officials should heed the message: Don’t do it — and don’t tolerate it.