S.F. firefighters may be disciplined

Three San Francisco firefighters present on the night of alleged violence between two on-duty firefighters face disciplinary action for their silence following the alleged clash.

Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said Monday that she could not legally disclose the names of one firefighter and two firefighter paramedics who were at Station 32 the night of May 20, when firefighter Bela Carreira is accused of breaking several bones in firefighter Joel Soto’s face.

As The Examiner reported Saturday, Hayes-White has filed disciplinary charges with the Fire Commission recommending Carreira’s termination and a 90-day suspension for acting Lt. Tom Masterson, who was in charge of the station the night of the alleged clash. Masterson retired five days after Hayes-White filed charges.

Carreira, a five-year department veteran, is accused of hitting Soto multiple times, after a contentious day that included several “heated verbal exchanges,” Hayes-White said Friday. Soto is in his first year with the department and is on probationary status.

After the reported altercation, in which Soto suffered a broken cheekbone and contusion to the back of his head, among other injuries, Masterson allegedly reported the injuries as having resulted from a fall.

The three other occupants in the six-person station are not accused of having participated in any violence, but Hayes-White said she is recommending lesser punishments for their alleged silence during the attempt to hide the incident. The chief has the power to suspend department members for up to 10 days without bringing the matter before the Fire Commission.

The department's administration learned of the dust-up June 15, Hayes-White said. Once the incident was reported through the chain of command, Hayes-White launched an investigation. In a letter to the Fire Commission dated June 23, Hayes-White filed charges recommending Masterson's suspension. On June 30, she sent a similar letter recommending Carreira's termination.

Commission President Paul Conroy said the commission cannot pursue charges against Masterson because it has no jurisdiction over him now that he is retired. However, the charges against Masterson, filed before he retired, will be read into the minutes at Thursday's Fire Commission meeting.

Charges against Carreira will also be read Thursday. If the recommendation were for a punishment less severe than termination, the case would be assigned to one commissioner to take evidence. Because it is a recommendation of termination, however, the commission will hear the evidence as a whole.

San Francisco Firefighters Association President John Hanley said Friday that an elected member of the union’s executive board will represent Carreira in his hearing before the Fire Commission. The City Attorney’s Office will represent the Fire Department, Conroy said.

amartin@examiner.com

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