Cal Fire/Riverside County battalion chief with 3 convictions is still employed – San Bernardino Sun

Over the past 14 years, veteran firefighter Terran Mark League Jr. has been in a confrontation with police in which they used a stun gun to detain him, accused in a domestic violence case of trying to strike a woman with a car and twice been ordered to enroll in anger management classes.

He has been convicted of three misdemeanors since 2008 and now faces a fourth misdemeanor count, sexual battery.

Even so, the 50-year-old Cal Fire/Riverside County battalion chief, formerly assigned to Temecula, remains on the job. Until earlier this year, when he was placed on administrative leave, he had been allowed to respond to calls.

Commonly known as Cal Fire, the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is comprised of roughly 9,800 permanent and seasonal employees and has broad responsibilities across California, including firefighting and protection of property and resources on tens of millions of acres of wildland. It also contracts with several counties and local governments to provide emergency services.

Yet despite repeated inquiries from the Southern California News Group, officials with the sprawling department have declined to say whether they have any specific policy describing what type of misconduct could result in more serious discipline than suspension, or how common it is for a firefighter to continue to work despite criminal convictions.

Battalion Chief John Heggie, a Cal Fire spokesman, said in a written statement that the department “expects its employees to uphold standards of professional conduct both on- and off-duty.” He said the agency is aware of the current criminal case against League and is monitoring it closely.

“Cal Fire is conducting an internal investigation and is in communication with the District Attorney’s office regarding its criminal investigation. We will determine (the) next steps in our administrative process at the appropriate time,” Heggie said.

A December 2021 Leadership Accountability Report issued by the department states that Cal Fire employees are responsible for reviewing a code of conduct and a “Departmental Incompatible Activities Statement,” though that report does not address any specifics on criminal behavior of workers.

The state supervisors’ handbook states, “An employee’s conviction of any felony, or any misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, constitutes the basis for discipline. The conviction may be based on a plea or verdict of guilty or a plea of nolo contendere. There is no requirement for a clear connection between the offense and employment.” The handbook does not prescribe specific disciplines for that misconduct.

League’s attorney, John Pozza, did not respond to messages seeking comment. The union that represents firefighters at the battalion chief rank and below declined to comment.

League is not alone in being allowed by Cal Fire to keep a job after being accused of a violent run-in.

Division Chief Jodie Lynn Gray was in charge of firefighting operations in Temecula in 2019 when she was accused of pulling a gun on her boyfriend. Gray pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanors, brandishing a firearm and battery on a spouse or cohabitant, court records show. Cal Fire reassigned her to the Riverside Unit’s headquarters in Perris before transferring her to Palm Desert. Gray later retired and married her boyfriend. Gray is scheduled for trial in November.

League began his Cal Fire career in 2006 as an engineer in the San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit. In April 2008, League was picking up his two young daughters from a babysitter in Stockton when police determined he was under the influence.

“When officers attempted initially to detain League, he ignored their commands and pulled away from them. Officers used a stun gun to detain League,” according to the Stockton Record newspaper, an account confirmed by the Stockton Police Department.

League was arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest and public intoxication, both misdemeanors. He was charged with the latter count, San Joaquin County Superior Court records show. League pleaded no contest and was sentenced to two days in jail.

Eleven months later, in March 2019, League was driving in the same county when he had a confrontation with a 39-year-old woman. League, who had his 3- and 4-year-old daughters in the car, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon (the car), two counts of child endangerment one count of reckless driving, a misdemeanor, court records show.

League pleaded no contest to reckless driving. He was sentenced to three years probation, ordered to pay a $400 fine into a domestic violence fund, perform 50 hours of community service and enter a 16-week anger-management program. The judge also told League to stay away from the woman.

He joined the Riverside Unit in 2012 at the rank of captain and was promoted to battalion chief in 2015. His assignments included supervising fire stations in the Temecula area and, before his suspension, the California Conservation Corps Los Piños Center on Ortega Highway.

Two years later, in Riverside County, League was charged with misdemeanor battery. No details of the crime were available. He pleaded guilty in August 2019 and was sentenced to 60 days in jail and three years probation. He was ordered to take an anger-management class and avoid contact with a woman.

And then this March, League was charged with misdemeanor sexual battery and pleaded not guilty. A trial-readiness conference was set for Sept. 29.

Heggie, the Cal Fire spokesman, would not say that the department handles allegations of criminal misconduct on a case-by-case basis, but spokespersons for other fire departments say their agencies do.

Some crimes, such as arson, can be automatic disqualifiers in the fire service, even before a conviction. Eric Jabbar Norwood, a Cal Fire firefighter who was assigned to San Jacinto, was fired in 2015, three days after he and his wife were charged with arson and insurance fraud, both felonies. Prosecutors said Norwood and his wife torched his pickup and filed a false claim to get out from under an $830 monthly payment. They were convicted in 2021.

Some misdemeanors can derail a firefighter’s career, said Eric Sherwin, a spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department. A conviction for driving under the influence could move a firefighter into a rank that doesn’t have a driving requirement, he said. Someone cannot be a paramedic with a domestic violence conviction.

And because firefighters have to enter someone’s property, a conviction for petty theft is “something the fire service takes a very hard look at,” Sherwin said.

“I don’t think you can create a single policy,” he added.

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