Arizona Fire District Sued Over Sexual Assault Allegations

Allegations of sexual assault and a hostile work environment have been swirling for over a year in the Rio Rico Medical & Fire District, but this week two former firefighters filed suit against the district, a former fire chief and his wife, and a current captain and his wife.

Rene Mendoza, Lani Salazar and Lionel Salazar (the husband of Lani) filed suit this week accusing former Fire Chief Al Flores, his wife Beatrice Flores, captain Albert Ibarra and his wife Carmen Ibarra, of liability for sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, discrimination, battery, and intentional infliction of severe emotional distress.

Mendoza and Lani Salazar were terminated from the department after complaining of repeated instances of sexual inappropriate conduct. According to the complaint:

  • RRFMD hired Mendoza as a firefighter in January of 2016.
  • On November 7, 2017…. as Mendoza stood by a metal storage box at a break area, Mr. Ibarra saw Mendoza and for no reason, suddenly struck Mendoza in the testicles with a flexible antenna from a radio.
  • Ibarra intentionally engaged in an act that resulted in harmful, offensive and outrageous conduct of hitting Mendoza in the testicles which was atrocious and utterly intolerable by society and went beyond all bounds of decency. Ibarra placed Mendoza in imminent apprehension of Ibarra striking him. Mendoza did not consent to being struck by Mr. Ibarra and the conduct was unwelcome.
  • Ibarra engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct against Mendoza that caused Mendoza severe emotional distress. Ibarra disregarded the near certainty that Mendoza would be emotionally distressed by being struck in the testicles with a flexible antenna from a radio.
  • RRMFD hired Mrs. Salazar on December 11, 2006. Mrs. Salazar began as a firefighter emergency technician” EMT”. RRMFD promoted Mrs. Salazar to Captain in July of 2016.
  • Flores supervised Mrs. Salazar, first as battalion chief and later as fire chief.
  • Flores began sexually harassing Salazar when Mr. Flores served as battalion chief. When RRMFD promoted Mrs. Salazar to Captain in 2017, Mr. Flores informed Mrs. Salazar of her promotion and kissed Mrs. Salazar on her mouth. Mrs. Salazar did not want to be kissed. Shocked by
  • Flores’ outrageous act, Salazar asked Mr. Flores why he would do such a thing. Mr. Flores apologized and claimed that he kissed her because he was excited for her promotion. Mrs. Salazar did not consent to Mr. Flores’ conduct and the conduct was unwelcome.
  • Despite Flores, insincere apology for kissing her, Flores continued to sexually harass Mrs. Salazar, cornering her in hallways and trying to kiss her.
  • From September 24, 2017 to October 4, 2017, Flores progressed in sexually harassing Mrs. Salazar to the point where he repeatedly raped Mrs. Salazar when she was alone at the fire station spending the night for her shift.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office investigated Mrs. Salazar’s rape allegations but prosecutors declined to press charges against Chief Flores. He was terminated from RRMFD on March 15, 2018.

Here is a copy of the complaint: 2018 Mendoza v. RRMFD Complaint 2018

Here is an earlier article about the allegations.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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