Allegations of sexual misconduct, manipulated test scores, domestic violence and more are under investigation in the Cathedral City Fire Department

CATHEDRAL CITY — An investigation is underway in the Cathedral City Fire Department into allegations of “corrupt unethical behavior,” sexual misconduct, manipulation of test scores on a fire captain’s exam, interference in disciplinary actions, and more, Uken Report has confirmed.

An outside investigator, who is skilled in fire department matters, has been hired to conduct the investigation, City Manager Charles McClendon said.  Garon Wyatt of the Riverside-based Garon Wyatt Investigative Services is the investigator. The investigation started immediately after members of the City Council on May 3 received an anonymous email outlining the allegations. McClendon said he has not yet been informed of any findings.

The email was signed, “Every Concerned Cathedral City Professional Firefighter.”

“This letter,” the email states, “shall serve as official notice that unethical and dishonest behavior continues to plague the leadership of the Cathedral City Fire Department. The specific instances described herein should be taken seriously and investigated fully or risk losing the remaining trust and confidence that few of your firefighters have left in the leadership of this Department.”

The email names specific individuals allegedly involved. Uken Report has chosen not to publish them until —and if — they are found guilty of any wrongdoing.

The bulk of complaints center on a single battalion chief and an engineer-turned captain.

During his tenure as captain and battalion chief of the Cathedral City Fire Department, a Battalion Chief has proven to be nothing more than a corrupt unethical individual, the email states.

“As a captain, … (he) was caught by fire department personnel having adulterous sexual intercourse inside of fire station 412’s bathroom with an employee from one of the fire department’s trusted vendors …, the email states. “During his ‘activities,’ he damaged a sink and sought the assistance of another fire captain, … to fix the sink and cover up the damage. (An engineer at the time) witnessed the events and told many in the department about (the captain’s) sexual relations….”

The email further alleges that at the last fire captain’s exam, a Battalion Chief was discovered to have manipulated test scores for an individual so he would “pass” the exam.

According to the anonymous email, fire captain’s exams are quite complex, covering a broad range of tactical exercises and critical thinking. Each component of the tactical exam contains certain types of critical failures. Critical failures are those in which the candidate fails to act appropriately and result in either great bodily harm, loss of life, unnecessary loss of property, or extreme consequences to the environment.

Critical failures disqualify the candidate from moving forward in the path to promotion. The person in question was witnessed meeting critical failures by several fire department personnel during his tactical exercise, according to the email. At least three witnesses were present at the time and “without a doubt,” the person in question failed the Fire Captain’s exam yet was still promoted under the direction of the Battalion Chief.

Just prior to the suspicious promotion above, the individual was the subject of a disciplinary investigation. Multiple documented instances of him failing to timely respond to 911 emergency dispatched calls led to the disciplinary recommendation by his captain.

The battalion chief “intercepted and prevented any such discipline from occurring, essentially sweeping it under the rug,” the email states.

Another instance involves a firefighter, according to the email. The firefighter filed a legitimate workers compensation claim for an injury he sustained on-duty. An acting captain at the time, who witnessed the injury, was instructed by the Battalion Chief to write the witness statement in a manner that shifts the entire responsibility to the firefighter.

“Several members in the department know about this because (the firefighter) would talk openly about the unethical position he was put in by (the battalion chief), according to the email.

Sexual Misconduct, More Part of Probe Into CCFD

Fire Chief John Muhr

Finally, and most recently, the email states, a fire captain was arrested and charged with domestic violence this year. This unlawful and unbecoming behavior of a fire captain was kept private by a captain and a Battalion Chief until another fire department employee discovered the behavior and informed Fire Chief John Muhr. While the final judgement is still pending in the Riverside County Court System, the fire captain has been allowed back to work without restriction.

Ongoing attempts to conceal and cover up the misconduct is currently being carried out by a Battalion Chief, a fire captain and Fire Chief John Muhr, according to the email.

“This memorandum should succinctly summarize many recent unethical and unlawful acts occurring under the supervision of (a Battalion Chief and captain.),” the email states. “It’s truly unfortunate that these actions can tarnish a fire department’s reputation, but unless someone acts now the liability against the department and city will only continue to spiral out of control.”

Corey Goddard, a captain for the Cathedral City Fire Department and president of the Cathedral City Professional Firefighters Association (CCPFA), said he is aware of the email correspondence sent to the City Council and was among those who received it initially. Goddard said he went directly to the CCPFA’s attorney.

“The Association itself has no knowledge of those things,” Goddard said. The CCPFA currently has 37 members.

The allegations coincide with Fire Chief John Muhr’s retirement announcement. The two are not in any way related, McClendon said. Muhr for some time had been “alerting” McClendon that his retirement was imminent. Goddard also said that Muhr has been discussing his retirement for a while.


Image Sources

  • John Muhr: City of Cathedral City
  • Investigation: Shutterstock