"Set Up By A Vengeful Dyke"
The Tucson Civil Service Commission upheld the 30-day suspension without pay of a Tucson Fire Department battalion chief accused of sending e-mails officials considered "disparaging of the homosexual lifestyle." The suspension was upheld 2-1 Tuesday, with Marion Pickens and Jose Ramirez voting in support of the disciplinary action and Tiana Smith voting to overturn it, said Barry Corey, an attorney for the board. This was corroborated by Mike Storie, Battalion Chief Sharon McDonough's attorney. Full story published December 12th, 2007 by the Arizona Daily Star. Supplemental reports published December 11th by the Tucson Citizen and by KVOA Channel 4 in Tucson aired on December 7th used as references for this post.
McDonough, 43, who has worked for the department since 1990, and was promoted to battalion chief in 2005, has already served her suspension but called it too harsh and wanted the suspension to be reversed and to have her disciplinary record cleared.
According to Assistant Fire Chief Randy Ogden, the suspension was handed out to McDonough in July after she engaged in e-mail conversations with a fire captain that allegedly disparaged homosexuals. The department also suspended Captain Roger Lee, but Lee retired before the suspension took effect.
During the Civil Service Commission hearing, Tucson Fire Chief Daniel Newburn told the commissioners that there were no allegations of an inappropriate relationship between McDonough and Lee. It was merely the e-mails between a commander and subordinate that were seen as inappropriate, Newburn said.
A personnel form said McDonough failed in her responsibility to stop inappropriate communications with Lee and to take disciplinary action against him. It also said McDonough's actions showed a lack of leadership, poor judgment and a failure to heed the directions of the city's equal opportunity director.
The e-mail conversation eventually focused on a Tucson Fire Department engineer, Michelle Maliniak.
"I have two pittbulls (sic)," Lee wrote in an e-mail. "We could teach them to hunt the dreaded milliniak (sic) beast."
To which McDonough replied: "delete — but okay ... ."
Department officials also claim another email regarding the same firefighter evolved into a discussion that was disparaging of the homosexual lifestyle, a claim that both McDonough and Lee deny. Lee says that Maliniak, who brought the allegations against them, went into his computer and took the emails out of his deleted file. "I never leave my email open. That person would have to do that in the middle of the night when everybody else was asleep, and this email was in my trash", said Lee.
Once Maliniak learned of the e-mails, she recovered them and included them in a presentation she made to the Tucson Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Transgender Commission. After taking an unpaid medical leave to recover from "stress" as a result of alleged gender an sexual harassment, Maliniak returned to the department.
Both McDonough and Lee denied being homophobic. Storie said firefighters from the chief on down regularly send flirtatious e-mails with inappropriate jokes similar to the ones that got McDonough suspended.
After the hearing, McDonough's lawyer Mike Storie characterized the Civil Service Commission as a rubber stamp for the police and fire chiefs. "It's time for this commission to stop adopting every recommendation made by the chiefs of police and fire departments," Storie said of Tuesday's ruling. Storie routinely represents police officers and said that in at least the last seven years, an officer has never won an appeal in front of the commission. McDonough can appeal to superior court, but that option hasn't been discussed and it is unlikely, Storie said.
However, WorkingMother.com portrayed a much more representative and sympathetic view of Sharon McDonough two years ago:
We asked you to nominate working-mom heroes — gutsy go-getters whose innovative thinking, intrepid spirit and influential lives make you feel as if anything is possible. We were awed by the stories that poured in about women who strive each day to make a difference. Our winners this year, including an actor, a fire battalion chief, a tech exec and a scientist, are exemplary of how powerful working moms can be. Each one has made the world better, not just for herself but for all women.
Sharon McDonough, 41, first female battalion chief in the Tucson, AZ, Fire Department; Mom of Madeleine, 7, and Gracie, 4
Firefighting is a field where strength counts — strength of body and strength of character. As the highest-ranking woman in Tucson's department of 650 firefighters, Battalion Chief Sharon McDonough has proved what she's made of since Day One. When she graduated from the academy in 1991, she wore her hair short because it was mandatory, slept in the male dorm and waited for a chance to use the men's bathroom. "I got static from wives, I got static from the guys," she says. "I could have dealt with things through the equal employment office, but I thought, I've got twenty years ahead." So she plowed through, and her persistence paid off—not just for her but for other females: She's helped increase the number of women in the department from three to 38. When a partner announced, "I need a man on the truck, not you," she did a drill to prove that, at 5'5" and 138 pounds, she could carry him out of a burning building—no problem. "Women don't have strong arms, but we have strong legs," says Sharon. "We can do the same work as men. We just have to use our bodies differently."
Being a mother, another alarm-riddled, sleep-deprived calling, has only made her stronger. A role model at the department, Sharon was promoted to captain in 1999 and battalion chief in 2005, a rank held by only about 130 women nationwide. As for her grueling schedule, she doesn't mind 24 hours on and 24 hours off, because her ex-husband—a firefighter whom she ended up outranking and, sadly, divorcing—works alternate days, eliminating the need for child care. And after five cycles she's rewarded with a six-day leave that lets her enjoy her girls. She finds all the motivation she needs from her love of her children and her work. "You pull a child out of a crumpled car to safety and you're hooked," Sharon says.
Sharon now oversees major incidents such as apartment or tractor-trailer fires that may require 40 emergency workers, including medics and hazardous material experts. "It helps to know how to build team spirit. When I say, 'I'm sorry, I made a mistake, what can we learn from this?' some of the guys can't believe it." By giving them room to be human, Sharon has broken through the macho facade that used to reign at the station. "They know they can go to their kid's school play or T-ball game." And the only teasing she takes now is when the men call her a "kinder, gentler chief."
Commentary: And unfortunately, McDonough's desire to be a "kinder, gentler chief" may have got her knuckles rapped, although based upon the e-mail exchange publicized, I see nothing anti-gay. It appears that Michelle Maliniak over-reacted. Particularly contemptible was Maliniak's actions in snooping through Captain Lee's computer to fish out the e-mails; why wasn't she disciplined for that?
This is just another illustration of how the gay rights movement has become transformed into a homosexual supremacy movement. A queer complains, people jump through hoops, and the straight person is automatically found guilty. This not only corrupts society, but actually sets up gays for the possibility of future backlash.
Rough humour is part and parcel of any environment where people engage in physical work and are exposed to risk, whether it be emergency services, the military, or construction work, just to single out some prominent examples. Rough humour takes the edge off the job and promotes bonding amongst workers. It's pretty obvious why Michelle Maliniak doesn't fit in; she won't compromise. Perhaps she should seek a work environment more sympathetic to her emotional approach rather than to force an entire metropolitan fire department to adapt to her petty idiosyncracies.