MD County FD Hires Firm to Help Revise Policies

Nov. 22, 2023
The Baltimore County Fire Department reached an oversight agreement with the Department of Justice in September.

The Baltimore County Fire Department will contract with an outside consultant to help it comply with a new oversight agreement it reached with the federal government this fall after settling for $275,000 with 11 female firefighters over sexual harassment claims.

The Baltimore County Council voted Monday to approve a $430,250 contract with Progressive Management Resources, a Pasadena, California, company that specializes in helping companies comply with employment, fair housing, public accommodation and consumer protection laws, according to its website.

The council voted unanimously to approve the contract without discussion.

The contract runs through March 6, 2026, when the fire department’s consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice ends, but the county may terminate the contract at any time with written notice.

Progressive Management Resources will help the fire department revise its internal investigation and complaint policies, and help it develop and conduct a survey to determine employees’ views about the department’s workplace climate, according to council fiscal notes.

The fire department agreed to settle with the Justice Department in September after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused it of failing to properly investigate claims that a former male fire inspector sexually harassed his female coworkers, and that the women were subjected to a hostile work environment beginning in June 2017.

Baltimore County officials determined that Fire Specialist Steven Lee had sent explicit photos of female fire department coworkers via Facebook to male coworkers, posted intimate photos of them on a revenge porn website, and had solicited photos of female fire staff from other male employees.

The agency allowed Lee to resign instead of firing him and did not inform his victims about the status of the investigation, nor did they determine if Lee still had intimate photos of the women when he left county employment in November 2017, according to federal court documents.

Instead, the department held a 15-minute anti-harassment online training in August 2018.

The county agreed to pay 11 victims $275,000 to settle the case in September.

Members of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1311, the union representing Baltimore County firefighters and paramedics, voted last summer that they had “no confidence” in Assistant Fire Chief Jennifer Aubert-Utz, who had received a complaint about Lee in July 2017, according to federal documents.

Another vote of no confidence in Fire Chief Joanne Rund failed.

©2023 Baltimore Sun. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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