No tape was found during the investigation into claims that Cal Fire firefighters recorded themselves having sex in a fire academy. But the inquiry’s preliminary findings prompted officials on Monday to place 16 firefighters on administrative leave due to unrelated violations, according to numerous reports.
“We just know that 16 employees violated some type of policy or procedure,” Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant told the Los Angeles Times. Spokesmen told various outlets that the investigation showed claims about the sex tape were unfounded, with formal results coming in January.
The inquiry began in May and attracted wide attention as it involved Sarah June Douglas, 26, and her boyfriend, a former battalion chief Orville Fleming, 56, who had been the target of a two-week manhunt as a suspect in Douglas’s death. In October, Fleming pleaded not guilty to murdering Douglas.
Meagan Fleming, the former chief’s estranged wife, alleged that she saw a tape of her husband and other firefighters having sex with Douglas, a former escort, on top of fire trucks at the Ione Cal Fire Academy in Northern California.
“I think the right thing needs to be done to clean up the issue so that so other families’ children or whatever don’t end up suffering like us,” Meagan Fleming told ABC affiliate KXTV in May about why she came forward.
The Associated Press reports that Sacramento County deputies didn’t find a sex tape but then asked the California Highway Patrol to investigate because the allegations were so serious.
Most of the firefighters placed on leave are former or current instructors at the Ione fire academy, Cal Fire spokeswoman Janet Upton told the AP.
Firefighter union president Mike Lopez told the Sacramento Bee that he hasn’t seen the investigation’s preliminary findings, but rumors about inappropriate behavior have shocked the department’s employees.
“I think everyone was taken by surprise with this,” Lopez told the Bee. “This (is a) very unfortunate situation that the employees of Cal Fire – all of us – are now having to deal with.”
On May 1, Douglas’s body was found in the home she shared with Fleming. She had suffered multiple stab wounds, and authorities began looking for Fleming.
Fleming was then fired as a Cal Fire instructor for not reporting to work while he was on the lam.
Authorities caught Fleming two weeks after Douglas’ death when he left his hiding spot in search of food. At that time, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said Fleming confessed to killing Douglas, the Bee reported, and then months later Fleming pleaded not guilty.