July 8, 2015

Port of Portland firefighter alleges sexual assault during training

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The alleged victim has received a $325,000 settlement from the port. Nearly 10 months later, the accused co-worker is still under investigation.

The Port of Portland in April agreed to pay a $325,000 settlement to a female firefighter who says a male colleague sexually assaulted her during a training trip last fall, InvestigateWest has learned.

She has since resigned her job, the accused firefighter is on unpaid leave, and the port has been unwilling to release documents about its investigation nearly 10 months after the alleged attack.

Port of Portland Airport Fire Rescue

The case raises serious questions about how the port officials handled the report of the alleged assault made by the female firefighter, a 10-year veteran of Portland Airport Fire & Rescue.

While the port has settled with the woman, the accused firefighter, Jason McCann, remains under investigation by the district attorney’s office in Tarrant County, Texas, where the alleged assault occurred.

Emails show that several port firefighters rallied around McCann, and at one point raised money in front of the alleged victim’s husband, who also works for the port’s fire department. The husband alleged the experience caused him job-related stress, and he’s also received a settlement. He returned to his job in May.

Neither the alleged victim nor the accused firefighter, McCann, would comment for this article.

Port officials say the alleged incident is the first in which one of its firefighters has been accused of assault. The port’s fire department has a staff of 38. Only three are women.

“The Port was very concerned about the allegations. We took necessary steps to ensure the health of safety of the employees involved and also to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation,” port spokesman Steve Johnson said in an email to InvestigateWest.

The Port of Portland is the city’s gateway to world trade, operating marine terminals, air cargo services, and three airports, including the Portland International Airport. It had a budget of nearly $1 billion. The Federal Aviation Administration requires the port have its own fire department.

In late September 2014, 13 port fire department employees traveled to the Dallas/Forth Worth area for FAA-required training on airplane firefighting techniques.

The female firefighter alleged that she was sexually assaulted at the Gaylord Texan Hotel Resort, a sprawling resort on Lake Grapevine. She didn’t report the alleged assault while in Texas but filed a report with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office as soon as she returned from the trip.

The Gaylord Texan Resort, where the alleged assault is said to have happened.

Curtis Simmons/FLICKR

The Gaylord Texan Resort, where the alleged assault is said to have happened.

The Port of Portland also launched an investigation.

According to documents, McCann initially declined to cooperate in the port’s investigation. McCann, who has worked for the port’s fire department since 2006, was put on unpaid leave for insubordination, according to Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill, who reviewed the port’s investigation following an InvestigateWest request to release documents about the case. Records say the port’s investigation was put on hold from November until June 22, when McCann agreed to be interviewed by port investigators.

“The employee accused of the assault would not answer questions because of a criminal investigation in Texas,” Johnson said in his email. “The investigation is now reactivated, and the port is working diligently to complete the investigation as soon as possible.”

The Portland Firefighters Association, which represents both firefighters, has not returned calls seeking comment.

In February, port fire Chief Craig Callicotte issued an email to his battalion chiefs attempting to rein in firefighters who had rallied around their male colleague. The emails show the firefighters were raising money to help McCann cover his living expenses and health insurance, and they passed an envelope for donations in the presence of the alleged victim’s husband.

“It has been determined that in the best interest of all parties including the Port, fundraising efforts on [the accused firefighter’s] behalf will not be allowed to occur on-duty, on Port property or utilizing any Port resources,” Callicotte wrote in a Feb. 19 email.

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Earlier that day, Callicotte sent a more pointed email to Frank Russo, a port firefighter.

“You acknowledged that because (the female firefighter’s husband) was present… it was bad timing to make the announcement regarding the fund raising,” Callicotte wrote.

Callicotte did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

redacted2_Soliciting-Funds-final

Settlement documents released by the port show the alleged victim received $325,000 and resigned. The settlement, signed April 28, does not admit liability by the port, and it bars the female firefighter from talking about the case or making disparaging comments about the port. The woman also agreed not to sue the port, but it leaves her accused assailant open to a civil suit.

The port also settled with the woman’s husband, who said in a petition for workers compensation filed following the alleged assault that he was suffering from job-related anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress. In April, the Port settled his claim for $15,000, records show.

McCann potentially faces discipline, and that he was scheduled for arbitration July 7 and 8, records show.

 

 

Photo credits: Curtis Simmons, Stella HwangN324F

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