The Clearwater Fire Rescue Chief has suspended two firefighters who worked together at Fire Station 49 for having sex while on duty, according to an interoffice report.
Lieutenant William 'Spike' Fry received a 30 day suspension without pay that begins on Feb. 23, for engaging in a sexual relationship with his subordinate, Fire Medic Tiffany Seabolt, who was suspended for 15 days. Seabolt's suspension without pay begins on Feb. 26.
"Needless to say the Chief is very upset and very disappointed," said City Manager Bill Horne. "I think the Chief’s embarrassment and disappointment is reflective across the entire workforce."
According to the report, Driver Operator Brian Swartz reported the inappropriate relationship between Fry and Seabolt on Aug. 4, 2015. Investigators said it appears Fry and Seabolt made counter accusations against Swartz to deflect the investigation into their inappropriate conduct. Seabolt also sent Swartz threatening text messages stating, "you seriously need to stop avoiding me and call me back asap!" and "if you don't call me back, I will be going to human resources about your accusation!"
In his audio recorded interview with investigators, Swartz said he was not surprised that Fry and Seabolt made counter accusations against him.
"Deny, lie and make counter accusations. That’s his motto," Swartz said. "Knowing Spike and what he’s trying to do is show a trend. So... if he gets two people doing it, then I’m trending doing it."
City investigators determined that the allegations against Swartz were unfounded.
"Do I feel that he (Fry) put the rest of us into a bad situation because of what he was doing with Tiffany?" Swartz said. "Yes."
The extensive investigation into Fry and Seabolt found the preponderance of evidence overwhelmingly indicates they engaged in an inappropriate, sexual relationship, while on duty. Two shirtless photos were found on Seabolt's personal electronics, a photo was taken of Seabolt's car parked at Fry's home at 12:12 a.m. on a Saturday and human resources obtained a torn up parking pass from the Treasure Island Ocean Club that shows a check out date the day after Seabolt called out sick, according to the report.
The staff described the living environment at Station 49 as "it was like living with a married couple" and "there was stress from them arguing." Investigators said that Fry violated the trust the City has placed in him as a Fire Lieutenant and his behavior caused a significant disruption within Station 49 and throughout Clearwater Fire Rescue. Fry and Seabolt also caused significant negative publicity generated by their actions and portrayed the City in a bad light, according to the report.
This is the third investigation into alleged sexual misconduct happening by the men in charge of the fire stations in Clearwater since 2012. City Manager Horne said he is going to put measures in place to stop it from happening again.
"We’re looking at putting cameras on the outside of the buildings. Which is a good idea anyway from a homeland security perspective," he said. "But also cameras inside the building, in the common areas and we have requested that our assistant chiefs conduct recurring visits to the fire stations during their tours of duty, since they cover the city 24-7."
Horne also said the city is going to establish protocols and written policies that reinforce the inappropriateness of fraternization and establishes rules that will discourage the behavior.
"I’m confident that you aren’t going to see this sort of incident happen in the future," he said. "If the cost of these cameras exceeds my spending authority, which is $100,000, we will have to go to council for approval. I do not anticipate the council having any difficulties supporting it because I think as I talk to council members they understand the importance of this."
Seabolt declined Bay News 9's request for an interview and has since gotten divorced. Fry is currently going through a divorce and said he has attorneys that will litigate the decision and that's why he can't talk. Horne said the discipline should withstand any arbitration.
"We believe that the actions that we’re taking will be sustained should the lieutenant decide to challenge it through the grievance process," he said. "It is one of the longer suspensions that we have administered in the past but we do believe it sends the right message."