Judge Orders San Jose Fire Department to Release Records into Pink Poodle Strip Club Incident

A judge has ordered the San Jose Fire Department to turn over investigatory records from the Pink Poodle Strip Club incident to the San Jose Mercury News. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Thomas E. Kuhnle issued the ruling on Friday concluding that the public records law mandates that the documents be released.

The scandalous incident occurred on October 5, 2022 when a scantily clad woman was filmed exiting San Jose Engine 4 and walking into the Pink Poodle. The video surfaced in social media the following day. An investigation concluded the crew had dropped off a male passenger at the club when the woman jumped on board and refused to leave unless firefighters took her for a ride. Firefighters “reluctantly” accommodated her request by taking her around the block before dropping her off. They then reportedly swung by a bikini bar before returning to quarters.

In March, Fire Chief Robert Sapien reported the results of the investigation to the mayor and city council along with an acknowledgement that firefighters had been “appropriately disciplined,” but the details were not publicly released. That prompted a public records request and subsequent lawsuit by the Mercury News.

A copy of Judge Kuhnle’s ruling is not available at the moment, but will be posted when it is. The city has 30 days to comply with the order. San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan was quoted by the Mercury News as supporting Kuhnle’s ruling.

  • As somebody who has been pushing for more and faster transparency on this matter, the judge’s decision is good news.
  • The public will now be able to see key details of the investigation themselves, and understand why significant discipline was imposed and that San Jose won’t tolerate deviation from the high standards the vast majority of our workforce upholds every day.

Here is more from the Mercury News.

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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