Four Polk County Fire Rescue employees are involved in a sex scandal. Three of them have been fired. The fourth has been suspended.
Chief David Cash says it could leave a black mark on the department.
"These were good employees. They did some very foolish things and we've had to deal with that," he said. "Of course, there is a level of disappointment with the staff and all the field
Medical Supervisor Shellie Krauklis is at the center of the scandal. An internal investigation by Polk Fire Rescue says her boyfriend alerted the department to what was happening.
Cash says Krauklis then admitted to having sex on duty, on county property with fellow Medical Supervisor Michael Tomilinson and, on separate occasions, with Battalion Chief Trampas Fletcher.
Taxpayers are shocked.
"I'm helping support all that with my taxes and moneys and fees I pay locally," said Paul Dimbath of Lakeland. "I prefer that my money be used for other things than that, frankly."
Cash says the sex happened at the Polk County Fire Operations Center on Clower Street, aswell as various fire stations while fire fighters responded to calls.
"We have ambulance stations where crews are gone 17, 18 hours a day running calls," explained Cash.
A fourth employee Deputy Chief Michael Choate is suspended. Cash says Choate admitted to exchanging sexually charged text messages with Krauklis on their county issued phones.
Cash says Choate indicated things were about to turn physical between the two, although that line was never crossed.
"Yes, this is regrettable, but we certainly feel like overall the vast majority of everything we do is exceptional service and we continue to focus on it," said Cash.
Cash says all four employees admitted to inappropriate sexual conduct. The employees can appeal their punishments.
From FOX 13's Stef DiPietrantonio:
It's the firehouse sex scandal that's rocking the Fire Rescue Operations in Polk County.
Three long-time Polk County employees, including a Battalion Chief, have been fired for having sex while on duty.
The story is raising a lot of eyebrows. It involves one woman and three men embroiled in a sex scandal and not just while on-duty, but at any number of county properties within the Polk Fire Rescue Operations.
"Not a great day for Polk County Fire Rescue to say the least," said Chief David Cash. "We're saddened by this."
Cash was disappointed and embarrassed by four of the county's public servants. Three have been fired and a 4th one has been suspended for their roles in a sex scandal.
"So, yes, this is regrettable," said Cash.
At the center of the scandal is Medical Supervisor Shellie Krauklis. Chief Cash said it was her boyfriend Lee Hardy, who is a Polk Sheriff's Deputy, who blew the whistle on her and the others.
"These were good employees," said Chief Cash. "They did some very foolish things and we've had to deal with that."
Cash said Krauklis admitted to having sex on the job several times, with fellow Medical Supervisor Michael Tomlinson and on more than a dozen seperate occasions with a superior, Battalion Chief Trampas Fletcher.
Cash said some of the sex took place at the Polk County Fire Operations Center on Cowler Street.
Medical Supervisors Krauklis and Tomlinson and Batallion Chief Fletcher all would have had intimate working knowledge, based on their computer tracking system, of where every company was at all times and which of their 45 stations, would be unoccupied and for how long.
"We have ambulance stations where crews are gone 17,18 hours a day running calls," said Chief Cash.
Deputy Chief Michael Choate is the only person in this scandal left with his job. He was suspended but not fired for "sexting" with Krauklis. Cash said they'd not yet had any physical encounters. although the text messages seemed to indicate, it was heading in that direction.
"Did send and receive and receive inappropriate text messages on his County-issed phone."
"You depend on those people and you think can trust their behavior," said Karen Taylor of Lakeland. "I don't think I would like to know, that somebody's working on me that's had sex with somebody 5 minutes before they got to me! That's disgusting!"
All four of the employees can appeal the disciplinary actions against them, either through the County or through their Union, but so far no one has challenged the rulings.
Chief Cash said all four regret what's happened.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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