Investigator: Ohio chief created 'hostile work environment' for department's lone female FF

Firefighter Bridget Martin, 18, filed complaints against former Delphos Fire Chief Kevin Streets, prompting the investigation


J Swygart
The Lima News, Ohio

DELPHOS, Ohio — Former Delphos Fire Chief Kevin Streets, who retired last month under the cloud of allegations of sexual harassment in his department, is alleged to have subjected a young, female firefighter to repeated "vulgar and degrading" sexual comments and to have created what an independent investigator termed a "hostile work environment" within the department.

Streets is one of several Delphos firefighters and police officers who were the subject of an investigation started by the City of Delphos into allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace. The allegations are contained in a report submitted to the city's legal counsel, Stacy Pollock, by Donald M. Collins of Collins Dispute Resolution Services. In his report Collins says the Delphos Fire Department has "a work environment that needs change" and that sexual harassment training "is in order for the city."

Several Delphos firefighters and police officers were the subject of an investigation started by the City of Delphos into allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Several Delphos firefighters and police officers were the subject of an investigation started by the City of Delphos into allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace. (Photo/Delphos FD Facebook)

A copy of the report was provided by city officials to The Lima News. In that report Collins recommended that Streets be removed from employment. Streets declined to be interviewed or respond to written questions during the investigation and announced his retirement Aug. 31.

The bulk of the allegations contained in the report focus on actions and comments by Street toward Bridget Martin, 18, the lone female on the Delphos Fire Department.

Martin filed a written complaint with the city on July 2 regarding the behavior of Streets toward her. Her complaint was supplemented on July 25 alleging a more recent incident of improper conduct. The allegations include "an atmosphere permeated by sexual jokes and commentary by Streets, many of which were directed at (Martin)," according to the Collins report.

Allegations contained in the report include:

—In June, Streets reportedly asked Martin questions regarding sex, knowing she had just returned from vacation with her boyfriend. Firefighter Devin Rabe and Delphos Police officer George Closson overheard the statement.

—Martin alleges that while on duty at the Putnam County Fair on June 23, Streets approached her from behind and placed a radio strap over her head and lifted up her T-shirt and fastened the radio buckle to her jeans. She felt uncomfortable with this interaction.

Also at the fair, Martin alleged that Streets would observe women and ask Martin, "If she were a lesbian, would you bang her?"

Witnesses to that conduct, the report states, included firefighter Ryan Shoemaker, who confirmed the incident occurred and believes it happened several times. Another witness, Dave Christensen, a volunteer firefighter, confirmed at least one of the exchanges between and Streets and Martin.

—Martin claimed that in December 2020 Streets made comments about her after a breakup with her boyfriend and referred to her as a "whore." Fire Department Platoon Chief Levi Probst reportedly confirmed the incident and said he believed these comments crossed the line.

—On July 20, 2021, Streets allegedly placed his hand between Martin's legs while she was sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck, according to a report.

Another female employee filed complaint

Former part-time records clerk and part-time code enforcement officer Nicole Streets, daughter of Kevin Streets, also lodged complaints on Aug. 1. She described a work atmosphere where sexual comments were prevalent.

She produced Snapchat pictures from Platoon Chief Scott Warnement that showed a naked man, a pregnant man and a woman walking with a 3-foot penis under her arm. Warnement admitted to sending those photos and was embarrassed and remorseful. He waived his right to union counsel.

In his report, Collins said Warnement "has been suitably embarrassed by this incident. However, for the record, I believe a written or oral admonishment would be appropriate."

Nicole Streets has since left the city's employ.

The report said the city of Delphos should revisit its sex harassment practices by conducting live in-person sex harassment training for all city employees.

"Any rational individual would say this behavior is unacceptable," Safety Service Director Jamie Mehaffie said.

He said the administration is in the process of reviewing and revising policies concerning sexual harassment.

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(c)2021 The Lima News (Lima, Ohio)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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