The top official charged in a sex scandal at the Columbus Division of Fire is fighting the Fire Chief's recommended discipline. Battalion Chief Gerald Birkhimer faces a demotion and six week suspension on a number of charges related to his supervision of Station 17.
10TV has obtained the transcripts of Birkhimer's hearing with Columbus Safety Director Mitchell Brown, in which a top fire official talks about the toll this ugly chapter has taken on the Fire Division.
An internal investigation by the Columbus Division of Fire found Battalion Chief Gerald Birkhimer guilty of dishonesty, insubordination, neglect of duty, failure of good behavior, and failure to meet standards of conduct for supervisors and administrators.
Most of his violations stem from his supervision of Firefighter Marc Cain, who was found to have conducted an extramarital affair with an 18-year-old woman while on duty inside Station 17 on the Hilltop.
Birkhimer testified that he, like the other firefighters, believed Cain's cover story that the woman was a friend of the family, a "daughter figure". Birkhimer learned the truth in February of 2013, when the mistress confessed to him that she and Cain were having sex inside the firehouse. By that time, Birkhimer had been transferred out of Station 17, but he admits, he didn't act on the information.
In his hearing with the Safety Director, Birkhimer said he'd been honest throughout, saying "I'm sorry we're here. I'm sorry for the mistakes I may have made, but at no time did I try beating the system, not trying to gain anything out of this."
His attorney called the case "overcharged," saying, "I hope that Chief Birkhimer is not going to be penalized for Marc Cain's indiscretions."
Assistant Chief Kent Searle, who oversaw the investigation, said, "What Marc Cain did there opened up a can of worms at Station 17," adding that at least 10 investigations were initiated as a result and that, "Birkhimer is not the only one that's been disciplined."
He summed up the ordeal as "terrible for the Division of Fire," saying investigators could not "leave any stone unturned."
The Cain scandal has spawned a total of 14 internal investigations at the Fire Division. In most of those, no wrongdoing was found. Two resulted in written reprimands.
Cain was fired, and is currently appealing to the Civil Service Commission, and the Safety Director is expected to rule on Gerald Birkhimer's discipline any time.