9 Investigates

DOJ officials travel to Orlando to investigate fire department's culture

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Department of Justice traveled to Orlando on Tuesday to start their investigation at City Hall following claims of sexual harassment and discrimination inside the fire department.

Those allegations by Assistant Fire Chief Dawn Sumter forced former Chief Rod Williams to resign in February.

The investigation comes after Sumter went to the city to say she was being treated unfairly in 2017. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sent a letter to the city backing Sumter's claims, saying that she was a victim of sexual harassment and that Williams and two assistant fire chiefs retaliated and discriminated against her.


The city then responded to the EEOC, saying they conducted their own investigation and cleared Williams of any wrongdoing.

The city did retrain their employees and started a task force in an effort to make the department more diverse.

Two other women filed an anonymous complaint with allegations similar to Sumter's, but the city would not investigate because they would not come forward.

READ MORE: Sources: Investigator says Orlando fire chief sexually harassed, retaliated against fire chief

DOJ officials are expected to discuss everything from lack of women's bathrooms at the fire house to the alleged sexual harassment.

According to a complaint, Sumter said, "Fire Chief Williams repeatedly rubbed, hugged and pressed his body against mine.There were many times I could feel he was aroused."

READ MORE: Federal agency recommends city of Orlando pay former assistant fire chief thousands

Sumter also said she was passed over for a promotion and was retaliated against by being demoted.

The city tried to settle with Sumter, but she declined their offer. A lawsuit is expected to be filed on behalf of Sumter against the city, and depending on the DOJ's findings, could be used to help Sumter.

It isn't known if other women, who called themselves the Orlando Seven and lodged complaints about the department's culture, will be meeting with the DOJ.

The city said in a statement:

"The representatives from the DOJ will have the city's full cooperation in their investigation and we will facilitate interviews with any staff member they feel would be helpful in their investigation."

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