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SAFD chief violated rules by posing for photo of him eating sushi off nude woman, investigation finds

Photo showed Chief Charles Hood kneeling next to nude woman covered in sushi during private party earlier this year

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SAN ANTONIO – A weeks-long investigation has determined that San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood violated SAFD rules and regulations when he was photographed eating sushi off of a nude women during a private party earlier this year, records released Tuesday confirm.

Hood, who has been fire chief for more than 13 years, was also found to have violated the city’s administrative directive regarding equal employment, diversity and anti-harassment, records show.

He was issued a formal letter of discipline Nov. 19 and has promised to institute a number of changes within the department.

The changes include working with the city‘s Equity Office to develop a training module to better recognize and value different cultures and perspectives.

Hood also agreed to analyze the department’s current recruitment efforts and to develop a mentoring program for female employees.

The investigation also determined that Hood’s command staff failed to properly forward a complaint about the photo to the city’s Human Resources department.

Records show Deputy City Manager Maria Villagomez was not forwarded a copy of the complaint from Hood’s command staff for well over a month.

Villagomez on Tuesday released the following statement:

City officials in late October announced an independent review of the incident, after photos surfaced this fall showing Hood kneeling next to the sushi-covered woman during a firefighter’s birthday party in January.

“I certainly didn’t intend to offend anyone, and if I did, I sincerely apologize,” Hood said late last month.

City attorney: Photo of SAFD chief eating sushi off nude woman is a ‘serious issue’ under review

Despite the apology, City Manager Erik Walsh ordered an independent review of the matter and Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the photo was “counter to the standards and values that we expect from the city of San Antonio organization.”

A summary of the investigative findings released Tuesday afternoon shows that Hood violated SAFD rules covering conduct and behavior, relationships with co-workers and negative public image.

SAFD Chief Charles Hood poses for a photo while eating sushi off a nude woman's body during a private party in January 2020.
SAFD Chief Charles Hood poses for a photo while eating sushi off a nude woman's body during a private party in January 2020. (.)

The photo was first published by the San Antonio Express-News.

Serving sushi on a naked woman, otherwise known as “body sushi” or “naked sushi,” is part of the Japanese practice of nyotaimori, according to a report from The Associated Press.

Some historians trace the origins of nyotaimori back a few centuries to the Samurai period in Japan, following battle — though other researchers argue it is a more recent practice popularized in the 20th century, according to the Express-News. However, the act of eating sushi off a model’s body has been criticized in recent years for objectifying women. Some Asian countries have restricted nyotaimori because of those and hygienic concerns.

Hood issued a statement apologizing for his conduct.

City Manager Erik Walsh also posted a statement, lamenting on the command staff’s failure to forward the complaint sooner.

The release of findings comes days after the Defenders were provided information about an SAFD district chief who asked if a female applicant had big breasts and described a room of women at a promotional event ‘like a damn lesbian softball team,’ according to a sworn complaint filed against him and another SAFD supervisor last fall.

The district chief, Douglas Berry, was suspended 15 days for the comments earlier this year, but forfeited 80 hours of vacation leave in lieu of serving the suspension, disciplinary records show.


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