Report Details Sexism at DFR, But Dismisses Most Allegations

Investigation confirms sensational allegations, dismisses others

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    An investigation finds a male employee placed semen in a female co-worker's coffee mug, but dismisses most other allegations by the department's former highest-ranking female civilian.

    An outside investigation into sexism at Dallas Fire-Rescue found a male employee placed semen in a female co-worker's coffee mug but dismissed most other allegations by the department's former highest-ranking female civilian.

    The report also cited inappropriate language and e-mails by high-ranking DFR officers.

    Leanne Siri-Edwards, formerly the department's executive officer, was fired in August after she complained about a sexist and hostile work environment. Her supervisors said they lost confidence in her ability to do her job.

    The city released a copy of an investigation into her complaints on Friday after the Texas Attorney General ruled the document is a public record.

    The most sensational aspect of the report had to do with a female employee who found what appeared to be semen in her coffee mug, which she had left inside her locked office.

    The report revealed that an internal investigation found who did it -- a male employee who confessed. He was allowed to resign.

    The male employee was upset that the woman had taken the office, which he had occupied previously, the report said.

    The report also found:

    • A battalion chief called Siri's co-worker "Siri's little bitch."
    • A DFR officer suggested a female employee lick copier ink from his finger. The officer said he did not intend the remark to be sexual.
    • A deputy chief offered to hug Siri in a meeting. She had alleged it happened multiple times.
    • Chief Eddie Burns sang a song outside Siri's office based on a popular hip-hop tune called "It's Hard Out There for a Pimp." But the investigation found he may have changed the lyrics and did not actually use the word "pimp."
    • In November 2006, former DFR spokesman Joel Lavender sent Siri an e-mail titled "Most popular guy in prison." Attached was a picture of a naked man. "On the back of the man was painted the face and chest of a woman, including her breasts on each of his buttocks," the report said.

    Lavender admitted sending the photo, according to the report, but claimed Siri first saw it over his shoulder on his computer monitor and asked him to forward it to her, which she denied.

    Two days later, he e-mailed her to apologize.

    "Point taken," he said. "I did not intend to upset you. I was out of line, and it will not happen again."

    The investigation dismissed Siri's allegation that City Manager Mary Suhm tried to water down the language in an earlier report that found "rampant sexism and racism" in the department.

    Suhm admitted she was unhappy with the wording of the report but did not insist on any changes, the report said.

    Reached late Friday, Siri's attorney blasted the investigation.

    "We're disappointed in the report," attorney Amy Davis said. "It's not independent."

    For example, the report concluded some allegations were "uncorroborated" if there was evidence on both sides, she said.

    Siri has filed a lawsuit against the city. Several other current or former female employees have filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Davis said.

    Lavender and Burns could not be reached for comment late Friday.