Hearing Officer Backs City On Massachusetts Firefighter Firing

LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) -- A city firefighter caught on videotape allegedly snorting cocaine and drinking beer while on duty has lost a bid to save his job.

A civil service hearing officer's report, issued Monday, backs the city's termination of firefighter Isidro ``Junior'' Cordero, Fire Chief Joseph L. Marquis said.

A surveillance camera caught Cordero and dispatcher Judy Brito allegedly using drugs and alcohol in the Lawrence Fire Department's call center during an overnight shift on Nov. 17. The tape was released to the public on Monday.

Brito was fired last week, but Cordero's firing required a civil service hearing because he is a member of the firefighters union. That hearing was held Friday.

Hearing officer Paul Benoit's report says the city has sufficient evidence to fire Cordero, according to Marquis. Details of the report were not immediately available.

``We're fortunate to have this over with so we can move on,'' the chief said. ``We took immediate action. It wasn't swept under the carpet.''

Cordero, a firefighter since 1998, did not bring a lawyer to Friday's hearing and declined comment to reporters at the time.

A Lawrence phone number listed to J. Cordero was disconnected Monday, and there were no other local listings under that name.

Brito, the dispatcher, can still file a grievance with the city and appeal her firing. A number listed under her name was not in service Monday.

Marquis said the department's pride has taken a hit from the scandal.

``It's an excellent department,'' he said. ``They took this to heart.''

Police Chief John Romero said Brito and Cordero will not face criminal charges because police did not recover a sample of the substance seen in the surveillance footage.

``The threshold of evidence in a criminal case requires a lot more (than surveillance tape),'' Romero said. ``You'd be required to have the physical evidence, which is the drug. Any sensible human being can see that it's drug use (but) the court would say 'where are the drugs?'''

Fire officials said they were tipped by an anonymous caller earlier in November that employees were indulging in drugs, booze and sex while on duty directing fire trucks and ambulances to emergency calls.

The surveillance camera set up by the Lawrence Police Department did not film any sexual activity, officials said.