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Published: 6/11/2006

3 female firefighters placed on paid leave for own protection

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Three female members of the Toledo Fire Department who sued the city last year over gender discrimination have been placed on paid leave pending an internal investigation that includes allegations the women secretly taped conversations in their workplaces.

Capt. Carla Stachura and Firefighters Geraldine McCalland and Judi Imhoff are at home and available to the department if they are needed, Chief Mike Bell said.

The chief told The Blade the women were placed on leave for their own personal protection while the internal investigation continues. He declined to elaborate on why they would need protection or to discuss specifics of the investigation - including the allegations of surreptitious taping and whether it involved video as well as audio recordings.

No administrative charges have been filed against the three women, who continue to receive pay while at home. Firefighters are paid about $53,000 a year, and a captain receives about $69,000 annually.

The women filed a lawsuit Nov. 21 in Lucas County Common Pleas Court accusing the city, Chief Bell, and Deputy Chiefs John Coleman and Robert Metzger of gender discrimination, retaliation, and creating a hostile work environment for women. Each plaintiff is asking for damages and compensation in excess of $250,000.

Chief Bell said "there is nothing from our standpoint" that indicates the current matter is related to the lawsuit, adding that this is a "totally separate issue we're investigating."

Toledo Firefighters Local 92 filed grievances on behalf of all three women after they were placed on leave, union President Jim Martin said.

"We believe it constitutes improper discipline and/or retaliation. It doesn't follow collective bargaining and their own policies and procedures," he said.

Mr. Martin declined to discuss specifics of the department's internal investigation.

Terry Lodge, an attorney representing the women, said he does not think the leaves are directly connected to the lawsuit, but he believes that's not the case with the internal department investigation.

Mr. Lodge said the outcome of the litigation and investigation "probably will have some ramifications in the workplace. But it's hard to say what." He declined further comment because of the pending lawsuit and investigation.

Mr. Lodge previously said a pattern of gender discrimination seems to exist institutionally in the fire department.

The women allege in their lawsuit that they were subjected to various discriminatory practices and endured derogatory comments and verbal abuse from male officers and firefighters.

Captain Stachura claims she was treated differently than male officers in the department, including being placed in an office at the fire museum in West Toledo away from headquarters downtown while in charge of the fire prevention bureau.

The fire prevention bureau is at fire headquarters atop the former Station No. 1 at Huron and Orange streets, across the street from Government Center.

Firefighter McCalland alleges in the suit that she was denied reassignment to a position in the fire prevention bureau because she filed a grievance for being removed from the bureau in 2004. She ultimately was given the job.

Firefighter Imhoff alleges male crew members created a hostile work environment for her after she complained about a racial slur that was made in her presence.

Contact Christina Hall at: chall@theblade.com or 419-724-6007.



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