City Releases Report Concerning Allegations of Sexual Harassment in Dallas Fire-Rescue

Let's end the week with a little journalistic quiz for all your Friends of Unfair Park out there. First, a little background.

In October, D magazine published a lengthy feature headlined "The Woman-hating Culture Inside the Dallas Fire Department," by Gretel C. Kovach. The story included copious details about how hard it is to be a female firefighter in the macho boys' world of the Dallas Fire-Rescue. The upshot: Male firefighters can be sexually harassing jerks, and DFR has a long history of looking the other way when the any female firefighters -- they make up less than 6 percent of the force -- complain about mistreatment.

That's easy enough to believe, men being men, and Kovach provides ample examples of the sort of male jerkiness that would get an employee in any other line of work canned tout de suite. But the chief victim of the story was Leanne Siri-Edwards, a former executive officer in charge of organizational development, who is suing the department alleging a long list of harassment and retaliation. The bulk of her complaints were against Fire Chief Eddie Burns, her direct superior, though she made allegations against 26 specific city employees. Her allegations include claims that Burns once kicked her in the shin to tell her to shut up, that he threw a notebook at her and unfairly demoted her. (Other complaints include being sent sexually explicit e-mails from a coworker, begin called a "bitch," and being on the receiving end of unwelcome hugs from a male coworker, among others.)

Got it? Stay with us here. We're about to get to the quiz. See, here's the prob:

The city contracted with a private firm, Employment Practices Solutions, to investigate Siri's complaints. Unfortunately for D, the city refused to release a copy of the company's investigation report to the magazine before deadline. Well, now the state has ordered the city to release the report, and we got a copy late this afternoon.

The investigation generally found that the vast majority of Siri's complaints, especially those against Burns, were either unsubstantiated or uncorroborated. (Uncorroborated is an especially slippery term in this instance, since it merely means that the evidence could neither confirm nor rebut the allegation.)

OK, here's the quiz part of the program: You're an editor at D magazine. You've now got a city report denying a host of claims outlined in your article. On the other hand, it's the city's own investigation, that tricky word "uncorroborated" appears many, many times, and your own reporting alleged that the fire department and city has (surprise!) a lousy history of investigating itself. So, what do you do?

We've attached a copy of the executive summary of the investigation report, which spans several hundred pages, for your weekend reading pleasure. Enjoy -- we may post the whole of the report after we get done poring over every last detail. Till then, discuss amongst yourselves.

Executive Summary Regarding Complaints Made by Leanne Siri-Edwards

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams