BROOKSVILLE — Former Brooksville Fire Department Capt. Sam Schey says that even though he resigned after an incident involving his unauthorized use of a fire truck on April 6 to demonstrate the apparatus to a family member, he regrets doing so.
In an interview this week with the Times, Schey, 37, said an internal affairs investigation done by the Brooksville Police Department contained several factual errors and its conclusion painted an inaccurate picture of the events that occurred that day. The incident led not only to Schey's resignation but the firing of another department captain, Bill Kaplan, who was terminated for unacceptable conduct as a supervisor and inefficiency of performance of duties.
The internal affairs report regarding the incident said that, earlier in the day, Schey was visited at his home by two firefighters who had been asked to check on his well-being after reading Facebook messages they believed indicated he intended to harm himself. A few hours later, off-duty District Chief Stan Mettinger and another firefighter saw Schey inside the Brooksville Applebee's restaurant, where he had gone with relatives.
In his statement, Mettinger, who was the acting fire chief that day, said Schey was in an inebriated state and that he told Schey several times to stay away from the fire station. In addition, some witnesses who encountered Schey also said he appeared impaired or drunk and that he made an inappropriate advance toward a female firefighter while showing a cousin around the fire station.
However, Schey said he had not had anything to drink for several hours before meeting Mettinger and wasn't drunk when he and his cousin boarded the ladder truck and drove on city streets.
"I had a few beers the night before while I was working on my car all night," Schey said. "I didn't take a shower in the morning, so I must have stunk pretty bad."
Schey said that when he met Mettinger at Applebee's, he was drinking a Coke. He doesn't recall being told not to go to the fire station.
"People who know me know that I visit there a lot even when I'm not on shift," Schey said.
Schey, who said he suffers from bipolar disorder as well as Tourette's syndrome, said that he hadn't taken his prescribed medication because he had run out a few days earlier. Without it, he tends to appear edgy and "out of sorts," he said. He claims his encounter with the female firefighter was "just a hug" and wasn't intended to be sexually suggestive, as was indicated in the internal affairs report.
Schey said that while he regrets his decision to take his cousin for a ride in the ladder truck, it was something that he and other department employees had done on previous occasions, without question from superiors.
Employee records show that Schey, who earned $15.18 an hour, had only a minor previous infraction in 2008 for tardiness. Kaplan had no previous infractions on file.
Citing city policies regarding employee matters, neither Fire Chief Tim Mossgrove nor City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha would discuss the incident involving Kaplan and Schey. It is not known whether other employees were disciplined.
Schey said he has yet to decide whether to seek legal counsel. He resigned April 27 after he learned from a firefighter union representative that he likely would face termination over the incident. Meanwhile, Kaplan has filed a formal grievance with the city over his firing. The matter is before Norman-Vacha.
Regardless of the outcome, Schey said he still intends to pursue a career as a firefighter.
"It eats at me bad," he said of the incident. "But I've found out that some rules apply for some people, and some don't. I got caught up in something that I never saw coming."
Contact Logan Neill at lneill@ tampabay.com or (352) 848-1435.