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Clearwater fire lieutenant resigns after admitting to having sex in station

Fire Lt. Stephen Coward resigned in September after admitting to investigators that he had sexual relations with women while on duty in the Fire Station 51 workout room, dive truck and his dorm, according to department records. [Clearwater Fire Rescue]
Fire Lt. Stephen Coward resigned in September after admitting to investigators that he had sexual relations with women while on duty in the Fire Station 51 workout room, dive truck and his dorm, according to department records. [Clearwater Fire Rescue]
Published Nov. 1, 2014

CLEARWATER — Following the resignation of a fire lieutenant who admitted to having sex while on duty, city officials recommended in a report that cameras be installed outside the fire stations.

Clearwater Fire & Rescue chief Robert Weiss first learned of Lt. Stephen Coward's unreported visitors at Fire Station 51 in August after receiving a package containing an anonymous letter and a flash drive with 40 emails between Coward and a woman. The package also contained a video of the lieutenant and a woman in the station.

When confronted by investigators, Coward admitted having sex with two women inside the station's workout room, dive truck and his dorm. He also confessed to watching porn on his cellphone once while on duty, records show.

Coward was in charge of Station 51 at 1720 Overbrook Ave., south of Sunset Point Road.

"Lt. Coward again stated there is no excuse for what he did and he is truly sorry and embarrassed for the city," human resources investigators noted in a report.

Coward also violated visitation guidelines because he failed to document the women's visits in the station's log book.

"There appears to be a need for greater oversight of the fire stations," investigators wrote in a report. They also recommended installing cameras outside the city's eight stations to ensure that the visitation policy is followed.

Hired in 1996, Coward was promoted to lieutenant in 2004 and received good evaluations from supervisors throughout his career, records show.

Coward likely faced termination if he had not resigned in September. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

"At any time Engine 51 is operating," assistant chief Kevin O'Neill wrote in a 2013 evaluation, "I am confident that due to Lt. Coward's tutelage, the operation will have a safe and successful outcome."

Times staff researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at lmorel@tampabay.com or (727)445-4157. Follow @lauracmorel.