SAFD fire chief steps down over ‘inappropriate and offensive comments’

Chief Charles Hood had led department for more than 16 years

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood is slated to announce his retirement, multiple SAFD sources confirmed to KSAT Wednesday. City Manager Erik Walsh announced Hood’s sudden change of employment status after KSAT’s report.

Hood, the city’s first African American fire chief, has led a department with more than 1,900 employees and a $374 million annual budget since April 2007.

Hood did not respond to a text message or phone call seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.

An SAFD spokesman told KSAT Wednesday afternoon that inquiries about Chief Hood’s “retirement information” would need to come from the city’s Communications and Engagement office.

A memo obtained by KSAT Investigates Wednesday afternoon states that Hood “retired his employment” after an investigation into inappropriate and offensive comments.

“Today Chief Hood retired his employment with the City of San Antonio as a result of an investigation that confirmed inappropriate and offensive comments he made in violation of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), Administrative Directive (AD), Fire Department Rules and Regulations and expectations of him as a leader,” wrote San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh, in a Wednesday memo to SAFD personnel.

“The Chief admitted to making comments that are vulgar, disrespectful, and demeaning to women and disruptive to the professional operations of the SAFD. This conduct cannot be tolerated,” Walsh wrote.

Summary of Findings

In a summary of findings obtained through an Open Records Request by KSAT, a local law firm reports Hood admitted to using a vulgar phrase within the department. He also admitted to using it with male SAFD personnel, according to the summary.

The phrase Hood admitted to using is “p***y always wins,” according to the report.

The Law Firm of Jackson Walker’s report, which interviewed eight people, shows Hood stated he “can’t be sure that [he] ha[s] never used” the phrase with those in the command staff. Hood said he “ha[s] never directed” the phrase “to someone in a Command Staff meeting.”

City Manager Walsh issues statement

Walsh released the following statement to the media late Wednesday afternoon:

“Today, Chief Hood retired from his position with the City of San Antonio. His retirement follows an investigation that confirmed inappropriate and offensive comments made by him in violation of the City’s Equal Employment Opportunity Administrative Directive, Fire Department Rules and Regulations and contrary to the City’s expectations of him as a leader of the department.

“The investigation was conducted as a result of the City Manager’s Office learning of potential inappropriate comments made by the Chief.

“The City retained outside counsel, Rick Garza, with the law firm of Jackson Walker to conduct the investigation. During the investigation, Chief Hood admitted to making the comments. His comments are vulgar, demeaning and disrespectful to women. They are disruptive to professional operations of the department. This conduct will not be tolerated.

“Deputy Chief Christopher Monestier will oversee the Fire Department while I have an opportunity to meet with the Command Staff and name an interim Fire Chief by next week. A national search for a permanent Fire Department Chief will commence immediately. The search will contemplate internal and external applicants.”

Councilman Manny Pelaez, Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Chief Hood’s retirement

District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez says the council was made aware of the investigation Wednesday before Walsh made his announcement.

Peleaz reiterated that violating city policies cannot be tolerated.

“Anybody who violates any of the rules in our handbook, right, it’s serious,” Pelaez said.

The councilman acknowledged that while the city council is dealing with its own human resources issue, he is certain that the council and the mayor will remain focused.

“Even though we’ve got a human resources issue here, I’ll tell you that my focus, and I’m sure it’s the mayor’s focus and the focus of the rest of the city council, is making sure that nothing interrupt(s) the delivery of the services,” Pelaez said.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg also sent a statement to KSAT, sharing his support for the City Manager and the investigation. He said, in part, “No matter the department or environment, people will be treated with equal respect and dignity in our city.”

San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association president weighs in

KSAT has reached out to the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association for a comment. Its president issued the following statement:

“The San Antonio Professional Firefighter’s Association, IAFF Local 624, acknowledges the forced-retirement of Charles Hood.

“We are also aware of numerous allegations made against Mr. Hood’s administration. The current members of the SAFD’s Fire Administration were all chosen by Mr. Hood and represent a direct reflection of Mr. Hood’s influence, character, standards, and culture.

“While we are aware of the details culminating in Mr. Hood’s forced-retirement, we believe in protecting all of our members and the dignity of a potentially ongoing investigative process.

“The San Antonio Professional Firefighter’s Association will reserve our right to comment further until we have been provided assurances that all allegations have been thoroughly and professionally investigated.

“Your San Antonio firefighters and paramedics will continue to courageously serve our community during this challenging time of confusion and disruption.

“We value exceptional leadership and we look forward to re-establishing an inclusive culture predicated on respect, support, and service.”

City Council addresses Chief Hood’s retirement

KSAT contacted other city council members. Below are their respective statements:

Councilwoman Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia:

“As part of a women-majority council, I am saddened to find out sexist remarks were made by an individual who we entrusted to lead a department that is supposed to protect people. I appreciate and stand by the City Manger’s decision and hope we do a better job of creating a safe, just and professional working environment for all. I also want to acknowledge the exemplary leadership of our highest ranking female executive, Deputy City Manager, Maria Villagómez, who oversees SAPD and SAFD. She has brought a new level of understanding of women issues to her work overseeing these two traditionally male dominated departments.”

Councilman John Courage

“I am shocked and dismayed by the comments admitted by former SAFD Chief Hood. The comments are inexcusable and disrespectful, and there is no tolerance for such behavior within the organization, especially for someone in a leadership position. I support the recommendation of the City Manager to begin a search internally and externally for a new Fire Chief.”

Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez

“Please accept our apologies for the delayed response. We have been informed that all media inquiries should be directed to the City Manager’s office or the City Attorney’s office. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require any further assistance.”

Councilman Marc Whyte

“Thank you for reaching out. At this time we do not have any comments.”

Councilwoman Phyllis Viagran

“The recent events regarding Chief Hood’s separation with the City of San Antonio was warranted, and the behavior that led to his resignation is never acceptable. I commend City Manager Erik Walsh on his decision to call for Fire Chief Charles Hood’s resignation. Chief Hood’s disrespectful and demeaning comments tarnish the reputation of our city’s respected fire department and cannot be tolerated. The brave men and women who protect our community deserve a safe and accepting workplace.

The investigation appears to have addressed the allegations and its findings were factual. The removal of Chief Hood as City of San Antonio Employee was necessary.

It is my intention to follow up with a longer statement regarding our collective responsibility to make the City of San Antonio an employer of choice where all can contribute and thrive.

About the Authors

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Leigh Waldman is an investigative reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

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