Neb. Firefighter Misconduct Allegations Resurface

OMAHA, Neb. --

The woman fired as Omaha's public safety auditor in 2006 went public with old allegations of firefighter misconduct on Monday.

Tristan Bonn and those who support her are looking to pressure the city toward greater transparency -- perhaps by hiring a new public safety auditor.

On Monday, the group released documents that it says are from a 2003 internal investigation. Bonn produced what she said are transcripts from interviews done as part of an 8-year-old investigation.

She said the documents were emailed to her anonymously this summer. The documents, she said, detail alleged behavior at one southwest Omaha firehouse. The Omaha Fire Department called that behavior an isolated incident.

The documents show that, between 1999 and 2003, Station 56 at 164th and Pacific streets was more of a party house than a firehouse.

"We had firefighters drinking on duty and were reported by other firefighters that they were too drunk to perform," former University of Nebraska Omaha professor Sam Walker said.

Walker, an expert on public safety oversight, and Bonn said they released the old transcripts to make a point.

"My call is for greater transparency no matter how it's achieved," Bonn said.

The two propose a public safety auditor to investigate complaints and allegations of misconduct for the city.

The transcripts are said to be of interviews with firefighters or paramedics who had assignments at Station 56 more than eight years ago.

KETV NewsWatch 7 is unable to independently substantiate the transcripts or the allegations they contain.

Several firefighters described seeing beer and hard liquor stored in the firehouse. There was also mention of soda cans cut in a way to disguise beer cans.

Many witnesses said they did not witness alcohol consumption, while others said they did, according to the transcripts.

"I can remember one firefighter specifically so intoxicated he couldn’t even hardly hold his head up," a paramedic driver said in the transcripts.

There were also allegations of women visiting late into the night, posing for photos wearing only firefighter gear.

The Omaha Fire Department declined to comment on specifics of the 8-year-old investigation.

In a statement, Chief Mike McDonnell called it an "isolated incident" and said that "discipline was handed down with no problem since."

Fire union President Steve LeClair echoes the chief's position.

"That incident was self-policed -- investigated. Discipline was handed down and not appealed and that whole situation was concluded," LeClair said.

LeClair suggest that political agendas have pushed the old allegations into the spotlight, but the union wouldn't oppose a public safety auditor.

"I'm not afraid of the public safety auditor's position. If it's deemed that it needs to be reinstated or if somebody wants reinstatement, I'm not afraid of that," LeClair said.

Bonn and Walker said the old investigation was superficial and incomplete. They said it's proof more oversight is necessary.

"What guarantee do we have that there are mechanisms in place to prevent this from happening? (A public safety auditor) will ensure that if there's a report of it, it will be investigated independently and thoroughly. I don't think we have that today," Walker said.

Bonn was the public safety auditor at the time of the incidents outlined in the internal investigation. But she said she couldn't investigation since she didn't receive a citizen complaint and didn't have access to the interviews.

Bonn said that not only should a public safety auditor be reinstated, but policy should be reworked to give the position more authority.

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