Fire captain charged with child porn to remain on paid leave | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Fire captain charged with child porn to remain on paid leave

Isaac Brambila
ibrambila@tahoedailytribune.com
Capt. Wygant performing demonstrations for children during the fire department open house last summer.
Mandy Feder/Tahoe Daily Tribune |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Under tight regulations from the Firefighter’s Procedural Bill of Rights Act (FBOR) and other protocol limitations the city administrators have placed South Lake Tahoe Fire Department Capt. Mark McLoud Wygant on paid administrative leave following his arrest on Thursday and he’ll probably remain on that status for some time.

“The city is strictly adhering to the requirements of the Firefighter’s Procedural Bill of Rights Act. (AB 220, sponsored by the California Professional Firefighters Association, effective January 1, 2008),” a memo written by city attorney Thomas Watson stated. “Pursuant to FBOR, found at Government Code Section 3250-3262, firefighters have procedural rights prior to the imposition of any disciplinary action, including termination.”

The placement of Wygant on paid administrative leave, after he was federally charged on Friday with receiving child pornography, is standard procedure, City Manager Nancy Kerry stated in an email Monday.

“As stated in the memo, no action can be taken that would adversely affect a firefighter’s salary, wages or benefits, without the due process procedures,” Kerry stated.

According to the FBOR, “punitive action or denial of promotion on grounds other than merit shall not be undertaken for any act, omission, or other allegation of misconduct if the investigation of the allegation is not completed within one year of discovery by the employing fire department or licensing or certifying agency.”

Wygant’s salary was not immediately disclosed, but based on a salary report the city shared, a fire captain earns between $62,124 and $82,124 annually.

According to the memo, Wygant’s employment status will be determined after an independent investigation conducted by the city is completed.

“Potential discipline cannot be based solely upon an arrest, but the determination by the employer of sufficient facts that the firefighter engaged in violations of law or city (agency) policy,” Watson stated.

“The process is very technical and the city intends to fully comply with all requirements, regardless of the reprehensibility of the accusations against the firefighter,” the memo states.

According to the memo, after the city’s investigation is completed, Wygant must be given a Notice of Proposed Action by the city. Once that part of the process is complete, Wygant and his union representative have the right to a hearing to dispute the disciplinary action.

After discipline is imposed, Wygant will have the right to an administrative appeal, and later an appeal with an independent panel of arbitrators.

The city faced a similar situation when former South Lake Tahoe Police Officer John Poland was investigated by the FBI for allegedly feeding information to gang members he knew through a woman he had an ongoing sexual relationship with.

According to a January 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune article, Poland was placed on administrative leave in November 2011 after the FBI began an investigation into his behavior. He was kept under that status until late January 2013, when he was placed on unpaid administrative leave shortly after he was charged.

Poland eventually pleaded guilty to a single count of obstruction of an official proceeding.

Wygant faces a charge of receiving child pornography.

An FBI affidavit also alleges there is probable cause to believe Wygant was in possession of child pornography material and produced child pornography material. Wygant is accused of obtaining or producing more than 5,000 images and 500 video files of child pornography material.

The material allegedly depicted girls believed by Special Agent Glenn G. Norling to be between 4-and-13 years old.

If convicted of the single charge, Wygant could face between 5-and-20 years in prison.

Wygant, who is represented by court appointed attorney David M. Porter, is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing Feb. 13 at 2 p.m. at the United States District Court Eastern District of California in Sacramento.


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