Madison, Wisc., firefighter and pastor Ron Greer is in hot water again, this time for criticizing the department's treatment of another discipline case. And this time, the department is trying to fire him.
Mr. Greer, profiled in the March 22, 1997, issue of WORLD, ran afoul of Madison's gay community last year when he publicly opposed the city's choice of Debra Amesqua as fire chief. Miss Amesqua has not publicly admitted she's a lesbian, though Mr. Greer points to her pro-gay activities. When a male, heterosexual department veteran of 26 years was passed over in favor of Miss Amesqua, Mr. Greer, who is black, characterized her nomination as an affirmative action move. After months of disciplinary hearings, he was punished with a two-month, unpaid suspension from his duties (the official charge was distributing anti-homosexual literature while at work). That ruling is being appealed.
The latest charge-insubordination-stems from a letter to the editor he wrote to the Capitol Times newspaper, contrasting his punishment with the punishment given to training chief Marcia Holz, who was found to have "verbally and physically" assaulted a recruit during a training exercise. Miss Holz's probationary period was extended for six months after the incident. Mr. Greer objected in his letter, contending that Miss Amesqua went light on Miss Holz because both are lesbians.
Mr. Greer's attorney, Michael Dean, says the firefighter was pointing out an obvious double standard.
"Ron said: 'I smell a rat,'" Mr. Dean said. "There was a rat. And they didn't want a rat running around in the hearing."
The Police and Fire Commission ruled last week that Mr. Greer won't be able to bring up certain topics, including the sexual preferences of the two women involved, in his defense. Mr. Dean will also be prevented from bringing up the incident with the recruit.
"This is outrageous," Mr. Dean says.
At least four more hearings have been scheduled. Mr. Greer, who pastors a small evangelical church in Madison, says he's leaving it in God's hands. "This is part of taking a stand," Mr. Greer told WORLD. "My family is strong, the church is holding together; I don't feel like we're all suffering terribly. We're just praying for God's guidance. We know he's in control."
Wenatchee, Wash., pastor Robert "Roby" Roberson, whose story was told in the Nov. 18, 1995, issue of WORLD, says he was one of more than 100 adults accused by children (primarily by two who were foster children in the home of the lead investigator) of conducting bizarre and mathematically impossible ritualistic orgies at the church, at homes, and at 20 other locations in the small community.
The pastor and his wife, who only became involved when some of their parishioners were jailed, were arrested for child molestation and spent eight months in jail. Their 4-year-old daughter, who told investigators nothing ever happened, was taken into state custody and was forced to undergo "memory recovery therapy."
In all, there were 16 convictions before the police department's "sex ring" theory began unraveling. Most of those convictions were plea agreements, forced on frightened defendants by overwhelmed public defenders. No defendant who had a private attorney was convicted.
Since WORLD's last report, Det. Bob Perez, the lead investigator, has been placed on unpaid leave from the department because of "heart trouble." More and more of the children are admitting they lied, and they're outlining Mr. Perez's coercive interrogation methods.
Two convictions have been overturned on appeal; Linda Miller, who was taken into custody at 4 p.m. one afternoon and interrogated until she signed a confession at 5:30 a.m. the next morning, has been set free (she had been sentenced to 33 years in prison). And Connie Cunningham, sentenced to 47 years, is free now, too.
Mark and Carol Doggett, both sentenced to 11 years in prison, expect a ruling on their appeal any day now. Their oldest daughter, Sarah, remained in hiding for two years rather than submit to "memory recovery therapy."
Still, there are nearly 20 people still in jail on various "sex ring" charges. Mr. Roberson says there's growing hope that the governor's office or the feds will step in to investigate the investigation. Attorney General Janet Reno has said she sees no indication of official misconduct, but those indications are becoming harder and harder to ignore, now that convictions are being overturned.
Mr. Roberson's civil suit against the police department and Det. Perez is scheduled to go to court in April. Daughter Rebecca, now 7, he notes, is doing fine.