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Union comes out against investigator of Fairfax County sexual harassment claims

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Watch report from Peggy Fox

If there’s a fall guy taking most of the blame for the numerous stories about sexual harassment and online bullying that have surfaced since the suicide of Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department Firefighter Nicole Mittendorff, it’s Guy Morgan.

There’s not a lot of sympathy for the actions of Morgan, a retired Fairfax County cop who handled internal affairs investigations for the fire department. Guy Morgan was put on administrative leave after WUSA-TV reporter Peggy Fox confronted the department about posts on Morgan’s Facebook page that Fox and others have described as lewd, racist and sexist. They were the type of posts that, at the least, could cause real credibility problems for an internal affairs investigator. Morgan’s actions have also been cited in two recent lawsuits.

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John Niemiec, IAFF Local 2068 president

Yesterday (Tuesday), the president of IAFF Local 2068, John Niemiec, came out very strongly against Guy Morgan (see story from Peggy Fox). Niemiec joins other officials, including Chief Richie Bowers and Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova, in publicly criticizing Morgan.

The problem is Guy Morgan seems to be the only allegation officials will directly address, despite many other related issues that have made news since Mittendorff’s death. It makes you wonder if county officials are hoping once Morgan is securely under the bus everyone else can get on the bus and safely escape scrutiny.

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Chief Richie Bowers

I hate to be so suspicious about all of this, but Fairfax County tried this tactic a year ago in an effort to place blame for the cover-up scandal surrounding the 2013 police shooting death of John Geer. Despite decisions that were made at the highest levels of the police department and the county government — including the Board of Supervisors — there was an attempt to pin everything on deputy county attorney Cynthia Tianti. While it was originally announced Tianti would be fired, something went wrong with that plan. In what was described as an effort to prevent litigation, Tianti was just transferred to another job — but she filed a grievance any way.

It’s not just this history that has me looking for a greater meaning in the public statements about Guy Morgan. It’s all of the other things that Chief Bowers and other Fairfax County officials aren’t talking about. I’ve brought up many of them in recent weeks and will list them again here:

  • Why was Guy Morgan not put on administrative leave when his Facebook page was first brought to the attention of Chief Bowers, days before reporter Fox began asking questions?
  • Who in the department was responsible for investigating previous complaints about Guy Morgan (see yesterday’s allegations by John Niemiec) and what has been learned about how those complaints were handled?
  • What has been learned, so far, about how sexual harassment complaints were handled by the current or past administrations?
  • What confirmed information has been learned about any of the recent allegations since the investigations Chief Bowers promised on April 29?
  • What did Chief Bowers learn from his meeting in early May with the majority of the women who work for the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department?

All of the above, and likely more, are answers that can and should be shared with the public — right now. As I’ve written many times before, if the news is bad, it’s better to get it out and behind you as rapidly as possible. We can handle it if mistakes were made and their’s real accountability and corrective action taken. But Fairfax County has historically not been a believer in some of the basic tenets of reputation management. Transparency is not something that comes naturally for those in charge of the county government.

As I’ve written before, I have no inside information and can’t really talk about the legitimacy of most of the complaints that have been lodged against the department. That’s why I’ve been pushing for some candor from Fairfax County officials that puts this all into perspective.

The danger for county officials is that the longer these legitimate questions go unanswered, the more suspicion will grow that Guy Morgan is the new Cynthia Tianti. And that’s not good.

Peggy Fox, WUSA9.com:

New concerns about the Fairfax County investigator on administrative leave from the Fire Department.

Now, the firefighter’s union president wants that fire investigator to receive “serious discipline,” which may include termination.

“We understand due process, but based upon information we have from two separate occasions, and with what the media has learned, there needs to be some very serious discipline,” said John Niemiec, president of the Fairfax County Professional FireFighters and Paramedic Association. 

Guy Morgan is the Professional Standards Officer who headed up the fire department’s internal affairs investigations concerning workplace violations and complaints. 

Morgan also ran polygraphs on new recruits. He’s now on administrative leave after lewd, sexist and racist content was discovered on his Facebook Page.  

“There should be some very serious discipline that needs to occur up to and including suspension or even termination,” said Niemiec.

Niemiec says two different firefighters complained recently about Guy Morgan’s behavior.  One complaint came in before firefighter Nicole Mittendorff’s death, the other after. One of the incidents involves ethnic discrimination.  

“We have two separate cases,  two separate individuals of conduct unbecoming, and the mannerisms. I can say that  they were unprofessional,” said Niemiec.

Guy Morgan is a former Fairfax County Police Officer. He carried a gun with him at the fire department because he is a Special Conservator of the Peace, or SCOP. SCOP officers are permitted to carry guns and badges, call themselves police officers and arrest people. 

Fairfax Police Chief Edwin Roessler filed out the request for Morgan to be an SCOP in 2014. But some lawmakers and firefighter’s are questioning that appointment.  

“I don’t why anybody needs to carry a gun in order to do internal affairs investigations or investigate personal matters or run polygraphs. A gun isn’t necessary for that,” said state Senator Scott Surovell, (D) District 36.

Surovell worked on passing legislative that tightened the SCOP program. He says the program was set up to allow private organizations, such as historic estates, to have substantial security. 

Surovell says an internal affairs investigator should not be a SCOP.  But, finding out who is and isn’t a current SCOP is difficult. 

“We didn’t know who the SCOPs were, we couldn’t figure how many there were,” Surovell said. The new law was supposed to create one central date base of SCOPs. 

“I think if we’re going to imbue anyone the power to arrest, and carry a gun and badge, we ought to know if they’re legitimate or not,” said Surovell.

The new law requires the SCOP officers to register with the Department of Criminal Justice Services, but it is unclear if that has happened. 

Senator Surovell says he called the office of Brian Moran, Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, trying to find out if Guy Morgan is still a SCOP last week, but still hasn’t heard back.

WUSA9 called Moran’s office on Tuesday, May 31st, to find out about Guy Morgan’s status. No answer has been provided by 7:30pm.

Fairfax Fire Chief Richard Bowers tells WUSA9 that he was aware Guy Morgan carried a gun on the job, but was not sure who approved his status to do so. Bowers became chief in 2013.

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