Columbus Sex Scandal Claims Another Victim

A sex scandal in the Columbus Fire Department that cost one firefighter his job has claimed another victim.

Battalion Chief Gerald C. Birkhimer has been demoted to lieutenant for his role in covering up on-duty sexual activity between Firefighter Marc Cain and a woman who was 18 when a two-year relationship began.

Cain is reported to have given the woman an electronic passcode allowing her to enter his fire station, allowed her to ride apparatus without proper authorization, and had sex in the station several times between September 2011 and April 2013. The girl’s father brought the relationship to the attention of the fire department administration. Cain was married at the time and had a daughter the same age as the woman. Some firefighters, including his company officer, claimed they initially thought the woman was his daughter.

Chief Birkhimer reportedly was aware that improprieties had taken place, and even reprimanded Cain but failed to follow the chain of command and department policy which in turn allowed the conduct to continue. He was found guilty on 21 violations, including dishonesty, insubordination and neglect of duty.

Fire Chief Gregory A. Paxton recommended Chief Birkhimer receive a 240-hour suspension without pay and a demotion to captain. However, Public Safety Director Mitchell J. Brown ordered him demoted to lieutenant and suspended him for 24 hours.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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