San Jose mayor blasts Pink Poodle strip club firefighter probe

“It does not feel like we’re getting the full story,” said Mayor Matt Mahan

Mayor Matt Mahan said he was “disappointed” and “concerned” by the contents of the internal probe and how it was conducted in his first public remarks since the release of the investigative report on the infamous incident involving San Jose firefighters who dropped off a bikini-clad woman at the Pink Poodle strip club in October.

The city released 100 pages of documents about the Oct. 5 scandal last week under court order following a lawsuit filed by this news organization, revealing that Fire Captain William Tognozzi was picking up a flash drive at the strip club that contained pictures of his colleagues taken by a Pink Poodle employee.

However, investigators discovered that Tognozzi, along with firefighters Brian Dragges, Zach Clark, and Matthew Westcott, made a second stop at A.J.’s, a bikini bar, that night. None of the crew disclosed that aspect of the story, which appears to be a violation of the department’s code of conduct. Only Tognozzi, who was demoted to fire engineer, received disciplinary action.

RELATED: Exclusive: A San Jose fire captain hired a Pink Poodle stripper for employee photos.

“When the report was finally made public and we all had a chance to read it, it felt incomplete to me,” Mahan said in an interview. “It doesn’t feel like we’re getting the whole picture.” And I don’t believe that is appropriate for public servants.” Mahan went on to say that the firefighters’ story to investigators felt “very rehearsed.”

Mahan also stated that either the other three firefighters, in addition to Tognozzi, should have been disciplined, or investigators should have “demanded more facts or details.” The mayor stated that he expressed his concerns to City Manager Jennifer Maguire, who is in charge of personnel issues.

Sergio Jimenez, Omar Torres, David Cohen, Peter Ortiz, Dev Davis, Bien Doan, and Pam Foley all declined to comment on the investigation when reached for comment. Rosemary Kamei, Domingo Candelas, and Arjun Batra of the City Council did not respond to requests for comment.

The mayor’s remarks echo a steady stream of criticism directed at the city’s investigation into the October incident.

Following the release of the report, former Mayor Sam Liccardo and experts in personnel investigations questioned the investigation, specifically the two-minute stop at A.J.’s.

Liccardo, who was a former federal prosecutor and mayor at the time of the incident, stated shortly after that “heads must roll” if the video of the incident is “as bad as it looks.” “Nobody has a recollection of that?” he said after reviewing the investigative documents. Liccardo inquired about A.J.’s detour. “I don’t buy that.”

So far, neither Fire Chief Robert Sapien nor the four firefighters have commented publicly on the incident. The photographer refused to cooperate with investigators and was not identified in the documents.

According to a timeline provided by Sapien earlier this year, the firefighters left their station at 9 p.m. on Oct. 5 and arrived at the Pink Poodle six minutes later. A woman approached the firetruck and asked for a ride, which the crew agreed to after “she persisted,” according to the chief’s memo. The crew circled the block for four minutes before dropping the woman off at A.J.’s Restaurant and Bar. At 9:20 p.m., the truck returned to the fire station.

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