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Findings revealed in LAFD porn probe

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By Carol A. Clark

More than 30 Los Alamos firefighters were initially linked to the investigation launched late last year into pornography allegedly downloaded onto county-owned computers at fire station 3 in White Rock.

The independent investigation concluded March 15 and 10 firefighters, including people of rank, have been disciplined. The majority of the remaining firefighters were cleared of wrongdoing and a few retired or resigned rather than face punishment for their actions.

While the final report won’t be released until May 10, according to Assistant County Attorney Dan Gonzales, Fire Chief Doug Tucker discussed the investigator’s findings during an interview late Monday in his office on East Road.

“We applied the ‘grandmother rule’ in determining if the images found on the computers were inappropriate – whether you’d be very embarrassed if your grandmother saw you looking at it. The good news is the impact to our department – although a black eye – wasn’t as severe as I feared it might be,” Tucker said. “The majority of the images were inappropriate but not explicit.”

Acting County Administrator Randy Autio said this morning that the county takes improper use of county equipment “very seriously.”

“Even if it’s only a small abuse of the system – it’s significant,” Autio said. “We don’t believe any employee should be using county equipment or time to look at inappropriate images. We have a policy against it and if there are employees who want to spend their time looking at pornography sites, then they shouldn’t be working for the county.”

Once each of the firefighters involved in the probe were interviewed and the investigation was concluded, fire administration moved forward with the “appropriate disciplinary action” for each individual dependent upon the degree of violation of the county’s IT security policy, Tucker said.

Officials divided computer offenses into three types and implemented five levels of disciplinary action depending on the severity of the violation type. 

“Type 1 involved pin-up style images, type 2 took into account suggestive sexual images including full frontal nudity and type 3 involved images containing explicit sexual activity,” Tucker said. “Our progressive discipline levels ranged from oral reprimands documented between supervisors and employees, to written reprimands, which were sent to me and our human resources manager, to suspensions, demotions and terminations.”

None of the firefighters involved were terminated, Tucker said. 

“We have a few issues that are appealable but once we get through that, this episode will be pretty much over,” Tucker said. “My message to my folks is to regain the confidence and recommit to the community.”

It’s unfortunate when this type of thing happens, Autio said, adding that the county is in the process of putting all of its employees through Title 7 training, which involves anti-discrimination in terms of gender, age and race.

The probe was limited to station 3 and sparked by a small video camera wedged inside a paper towel dispenser aimed at the toilet and shower area in one of the station’s restrooms.

Former LAFD firefighter Jessica Noah discovered the camera early one Sunday morning in late October. Former Capt. Aaron Adair was charged with voyeurism and later resigned from the department.

Following Adair’s arrest, the county confiscated 15 computers and sent them to its IT department to scan for inappropriate material. 

“Acting IT Manager Matt Casados reviewed profiles on the computers and found cache items ranging from 1 to greater than 240 photos in each,” Tucker said. “No criminal activity such as child pornography was found.” 

The county contracted with First Line Resources, which specializes in personnel investigations for government entities, to conduct an independent investigation. Investigator David Palmer conducted the probe.

Noah went on paid administrative leave, filed an internal claim against the county and eventually resigned. Her case is pending.