On the first day of new leadership in the Houston Fire Department, two captains have been moved from a firehouse at the center of a criminal harassment investigation, KPRC Local 2 Investigates reported Friday.
Acting Fire Chief Rick Flanagan told Local 2 that, "New leadership was needed," prompting him to transfer two captains from Intercontinental Air Rescue Station 54.
In a written statement, Flanagan said, "These transfers were administered by the chief in order to provide for new leadership at the station for the betterment of the department and to assure the best service to citizens."
Senior Capt. Isidro Tamez and Capt. Brian Williamson will report to the training academy Monday for training to work at a non-airport neighborhood fire station.
One fire department leader, who asked not to be named, said Tamez was transferred because the harassment scandal and the resulting fallout happened on his watch at his station.
The fire official said both captains were not happy, nor were they surprised at the move.
The second captain to be transferred is Brian Williamson, who re-ignited the harassment controversy earlier this month by reading a letter out loud as one of the women who reported the harassment tried to return to work.
Firefighter Jane Draycott returned to the station with then Fire Chief Phil Boriskie present, when Williamson then read a letter stating that firefighters at the station did not trust her.
Boriskie's handling of that firehouse meeting prompted criticism from Mayor Annise Parker and Boriskie announced he was leaving the top fire department job, effective Friday.
Both captains will undergo basic firefighter training at the academy, which is required when any firefighter who has been assigned to a specialty detail such as the airport for six months or longer is being returned to regular firefighting duties.
Both captains are responding to the move through their union, the Houston Professional Firefighters Association. President Jeff Caynon said, "They want to stress that it was voluntary on their part to try and defuse the situation."
He said the move is, "Not an admission that they did anything wrong."
Both captains, he said, want the public to reserve judgment until the city's Office of Inspector General investigation is complete because they both believe they will be exonerated by that inquiry.
Caynon said other firefighters at Station 54 are discussing their options for transferring out of that station but fire department headquarters said no other transfers had been finalized as of Friday afternoon.
Draycott's attorney said she was surprised by the senior captain's transfer since he had been supportive of her in the ordeal. The lawyer said Draycott wanted to be treated like any other firefighter and put this ordeal behind her.
One fire official who is involved in the OIG investigation said no target has been identified as a suspect in the station house graffiti or harassment that resulted in this scandal.
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