As Fairfax looks into firefighter harassment, report finds few issues

WASHINGTON — Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill has launched an investigation into charges by Battalion Chief Kathleen Stanley that the fire department continues to tolerate and defend a hostile work environment.

In a letter last week to Fire Chief Richard Bowers, Stanley resigned her post as a women’s program officer for Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, saying the women’s advocate post has no legitimate authority.

Stanley described several examples of personnel being harassed.

But her letter came at the same time that the Board of Supervisors received a conflicting report from Lt. Katja Lancing, who heads a fire service women’s working group that surveyed and interviewed women firefighters.

Lancing told the board that 95 percent of the women said they have not had any problems due to their gender and said their treatment by male counterparts is getting better.

Ordered by the Board of Supervisors to look into Stanley’s charges, the county executive said he is investigating each of her allegations and will provide a full report to the board after his review is complete.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue has faced allegations of a hostile workplace since the 2016 suicide of firefighter Nicole Mittendorff; investigators found the department culture included harassment and bullying.

Last week, Mittendorff’s husband, Steven Mittendorff, called for the fire chief’s resignation following the Stanley letter, but Bowers said he would not step down.

In a Wednesday statement following word of the new review, Mittendorff said he’s pleased the county executive is investigating Stanley’s charges, and that he’s confident Hill will conduct a thorough investigation.

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