A Monroe County Fire Rescue captain and instructor at its fire academy is accused of kissing a recruit against her will earlier this month, an action that came after a series of other incidents with the woman and two other female trainees that county leaders say constitutes sexual harassment.
Capt. Christopher Cane, who was hired in Aug. 2004 and earns $106,093 a year, kissed the woman on Dec. 6 after she finished a training exercise that she had struggled with previously, according to a Dec. 12 investigation report completed by county Human Resources and the Department of Safety and Security.
According to the recruit and other students who witnessed the incident, Cane told her to remove her self-contained breathing apparatus — the air mask firefighters wear inside of burning structures — grabbed her face and then kissed her.
He told her, according to the report, “See, all you needed was a little kiss for motivation.”
Cane could not immediately be reached for comment. He has a predetermination hearing with Monroe County Fire Rescue executives scheduled for Friday morning, said county spokesperson Kristen Livengood. The results of the hearing will determine his employment with the department.
The kiss, which the married Cane acknowledged during a Dec. 9 interview with investigators, came after other incidents with the woman, including asking her out on a date, going to the restaurant where she worked, and asking a colleague to “put in a good word” for him and asking her to “Lady and the Tramp” a piece of bacon.
The latter is in reference to the scene in the classic animated Disney movie where the two canine main characters share a single piece of pasta, culminating with a kiss.
Cane told investigators he kissed the woman because he was proud that she completed the course, and he called the move an “error in judgment,” according to the report.
The recruit who Cane kissed, whose name the county redacted in the report released to the Miami Herald/FLKeysnews.com, told investigators she initially did not want to come forward, fearing doing so would affect her chances of getting hired when she completes the Joe London Training Academy on Crawl Key.
Investigators said in the report that Cane told recruits “that he is a member of the interview panel for employment with Monroe County Fire Rescue and that he is empowered to recommend recruits for employment.”
The report states that two other female recruits were the subject of unwanted advances by Cane. One woman said Cane removed her boots when she was relaxing with her feet on a table and proceeded to give her an unwelcome foot massage.
The woman, whose name was also redacted from the report, told investigators she texted a friend to get her out of the situation. The report contains a photo of the text that states, “Call me over pls,” short for “please.”
During his interview, Cane admitted to rubbing the woman’s feet and said he blamed it on him being “too complacent.”
The investigators concluded that the kiss and Cane’s “subsequent advances and actions toward female recruits can constitute a form of quid pro quo sexual harassment.”
“The incidents constitute unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances; verbal or physical conduct of a sexual or otherwise nature, with a suggestion that the acquiescence or submission to the advances would be rewarded with favors in the form of job offers from Monroe County,” the investigators concluded.