Catching Up on Past Headlines: San Jose CA and Westfield MA

Two cases we have been following have seemingly come to a conclusion this past week. The first case out of San Jose caught quite a bit of media attention due to the titillating nature of the allegations: a video surfaced last fall showing a scantily clad woman exiting a San Jose engine and entering a local strip club. 

According to a memo from Fire Chief Robert Sapien to the city council, the investigation revealed that on October 5, 2022, Engine 4 dropped-off a male passenger at the Pink Poodle. The trip was not authorized and the man’s identity was not released. When Engine 4 arrived at the strip club, one of the “dancers” boarded the truck and insisted on a ride-a-long.

According to the chief, firefighters initially refused her request, but reluctantly agreed to drive her around the block. The video was taken after they dropped her off. The discipline imposed was not disclosed, but reportedly has been accepted by the firefighters without any appeals. More on the story.

The Westfield case is one we have been following for approximately five years. Here are three prior posts:

Massachusetts Judge Fines City’s Fire Commission For Open Meetings Violation in Firefighter Discipline Case

Three Terminated Mass Firefighters Sue Claiming Retaliation

Three Westfield Firefighters Reinstated by Civil Service Commission

At the heart of the case are allegations that three firefighters accused the interim fire chief of engaging in sexually harassing behavior, and suffered retaliation as a result. The retaliation culminated in their termination in 2019. The trio was ordered rehired by the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission in 2021. According to, the Westfield City Council has agreed to pay the three firefighters $2,385,000.

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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