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Firefighter: former PTC chief preyed on his female subordinates

“He was a predator.”

Those words from Peachtree City Firefighter Martine Piers summarized her thoughts of former Fire Chief Ed Eiswerth, whom she accused of forcing his way into her hotel room late one night in November 2012, as he allegedly attempted to coax her into having sex with him.

In an interview with the city’s human resources department Dec. 18, Piers alleged there were other females in the department who had run-ins with Eiswerth who later shared their stories with her, though she would not speak for them.

“Martine explained that one of the women’s story was 95 percent identical to hers,” according to notes of the HR interview released by the city. “... She said, ‘This is someone in a higher position playing on lonely and single women.’”

The alleged hotel room barge-in incident occurred as Piers, Eiswerth and about eight other firefighters attended a conference in Clearwater, Fla., according to a complaint she filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Piers alleged in the complaint that Eiswerth had sent sexually suggestive texts to her and promised to ‘be discreet’ if she would have sex with him. Piers also alleged this wasn’t the first time that Eiswerth tried to coax her into a sexual tryst, as he would occasionally come by her home and text her as well.

That EEOC complaint led to Eiswerth’s prompt resignation and has drawn a proposed $300,000 legal settlement for Piers. That settlement is pending approval from the city council, as is a proposed $190,0000 settlement involving an EEOC complaint filed by firefighter Ellen Schmieder stemming from an incident in which former assistant fire chief Peki Prince groped her breasts in a bathroom during the fire department’s annual dinner on Jan. 28, 2012.

Schmieder claimed that Prince also made sexual comments to her during the incident, which left her too upset to report to work two days later.

It is expected that the settlements will be approved by the Peachtree City Council Thursday night, city officials have indicated.

Piers in her HR interview about the alleged incident said that after she managed to coax Eiswerth out of her hotel room, she called a male firefighter and told him: “Don’t ever leave any drunks in my room again. I had a hard time getting one out,” according to the notes from the HR interview.

“I thought he was going to rape me,” Piers said in the HR interview, adding that she had trusted Eiswerth in part because of their shared experience in being in the military.

In her complaint, Piers alleged that almost immediately after the firefighters returned to Peachtree City from the Florida conference, Eiswerth removed her from the department’s volunteer board, which she had served on since January 2011.

That action drew the suspicion of other female firefighters who inquired with Piers why she was removed from the position, she told HR director Ellece Brown.

Piers said her decision to come forward about the incident was in large part to protect younger female firefighters, since she is one of the oldest on staff.

According to notes from the interview, Piers said she didn’t want Eiswerth to be able to brush the incident under the carpet.

“He needs to know he crossed the line,” Piers said, according to the notes.

Brown asked Piers if anyone else from the fire department was involved and she replied, “No, You have already cleaned house. The best thing is to bring someone from the outside to be chief. He was a predator.”

Brown also noted that Piers specifically cited interim Fire Chief Joe O’Conor and Lt. Stephanie Furey as being “clean” and that at the time of the interview she was very pleased with the crew on the shift she was assigned to.

Piers joined the fire department in November 2010 as a full-time firefighter and Schmieder has been a full-time firefighter for the city since September 2005, according to their respective settlement agreements.

Eiswerth had served 22 years with the department prior to his resignation in December, first serving as a volunteer firefighter before moving on to the career side of the department.

As part of their proposed settlements, both Piers and Schmieder have agreed to withdraw their EEOC complaints against the city and not seek reemployment with the city in the future.

According to city emails related to the case, the settlements were reached after Piers and Schmeider took part in a mediation hearing with city representatives. Both settlement documents were signed Tuesday by each firefighter along with City Manager Jim Pennington.



tortugaocho's picture

Going to a member of Council was pointless, at least that's what these women thought. It went on for well over a year.

Good job Munford. We would have missed it. Really cute reporting by the Council in their meeting Agenda for Thursday night. This little nugget is tucked all the way at the bottom of the 59 page packet, after the library roof repair, the new equipment purchase and all the other blah, blah, blah...And, it only tells us that the City had to pay a deductible of $50k and doesn't mention that our City insurance paid the other $450,000. Hello, can you hear rate increase ???

Most distressing is that the Council is trying to hide this. They ought to put this front and center, like Penn State, and address this problem. Not try and hide it. This is more of an indication that Council has no idea what the departments are doing.

In my mind there are a lot of wrongs.

1. It was wrong for the chief to do this.
2. It was wrong for Ms. Piers to allow this to happen more than once before reporting this.
3. It was wrong for the city to allow this to happen, especially when there had been rumors of this going on for a long time and a suit filed a long time before the second one.
4. It was wrong for HR not to have a clear policy as to who and when to report and to make those reporting issues feel safe doing so.
5. It was wrong for the city manager and council to let the man retire until the facts were in.
6. It was wrong for the other firefighters not to step up and defend one of thier own against the harrasment.
7. It is wrong to state that the chief was playing on lonely and single woman.
8. It was wrong for city council to hide the settlement agreement and kudos to the Citizen for reporting.
9. Its wrong for the city manager, city council, and mayor, for not knowing what is going on with city employees.

in getting a new job. Since August, she has been a state of Ga. employee. Title? EMS Preparedness Coordinator at Georgia Dept. of Public Health. How in the world of hiring would she ever be eligible for this position while this EEOC complaint was pending? Does the state have such low standards as to accept for employment someone who has admitted to being drunk at a Christmas party and groping employees who work for them? Do they operate under the employment ethic of the Catholic Church? Just move the predator around so everyone will think they addressed the problem?

Anyone who feels this is a slap in the face to the recipient(s), contact the Commissioner of the Ga. Dept. of Public Health and State Health Officer, Brenda Fitzbgerald, M.D., who runs that department. Her phone number is 404-657-2700. Let her know that you feel that since this case has been settled in favor of the plaintiff, Peki should be terminated, as her proven actions place the state at even further risk of additional lawsuits. With the huge cutbacks at the federal and state levels in funding of health departments, she is not an acceptable risk to assume.

Martine Piers and Ellen Schmieder, please do some good with your settlements. You obviously are first class firefighters and should not be ashamed or intimidated by filing your suits. We took for granted in this city that the behavior that you experienced would never happen. We were wrong.

Eiswerth is a predator and dirtbag and every legal means of pressing charges and denying benefits should be taken. Prince is a predator and idiot, also. They both should be required to get professional help, at their own expense.

Until any of us is privy to the exact details of what went on in the Fire Dept., then making comments against others is uncalled for. The facts remain, 2 so-called "leaders" were just the opposite. They chose to act in a way that disgraced their profession. Look in the mirror every day, Eddie and Peki, like what you see?

What happened to the two ladies was wrong, no ifs or ands.

I do have a but. There is something drastically wrong with the system if after two rebuffs from the ladies to the chief that they did not feel safe to report this and stop it before they had to go thru more.

Do you know for a fact that they didn't report it?

No. I do not know when they first reported it. The articles I have read insinuated that they first reported this after the FL trip, which to me indicates that this went on a long time.

If they did in fact report this after the first or second unwanted advance, than the system failed and the city has a larger problem.

ilockemup's picture

Obviously these women thought reporting it to the brass or anyone at City Hall was a waste of time. Otherwise they would not have filed a complaint with the EEOC. Amazing that the City insurance company wrote a check without even a lawsuit being filed. They tried to short Haddix out of $12K. There's more to this story.

If I am wrong, someone correct me, but it is the Mayor and City Council, ultimately, who decide settlement, with or without a lawsuit. GIRMA does not make that decision, they are contracted for coverage.

ilockemup's picture

Name me one insurance company that doesn't totally control how it writes the check. Besides, this is a bureaucracy's response to a problem--"We got insurance; they'll take care of it."

NUK_1's picture

Uhhh......Peki Prince + Ed IWorthless = a situation that you ran out of supervisors to report this to because it involved either one of them and they had each others backs personally for a rather obvious reason that doesn't take a genius to figure out.

Maybe it could have been handled at CH, but the risk those people would have run is that they'd lose their jobs and maybe their careers if they weren't supported by CH after they reported what was going on. It's a closed culture at the PD and FD and these people didn't have a lot of options.

are the cornerstone of any accusation against (especially) a superior. I'm just saying we don't now and probably will never be privy to the timeline of how this all happened. The fact that these cases are now close to being closed. GIRMA, no doubt, has required the city to tighten and reinforce all policies in regard to these complaints and require training that will single out anyone who should ever be negligent enough to ignore or not act on any reports of this type of despicable behavior in the future.

I feel it is unfair to let this reflect badly on the majority of city staff and management who were not involved in any way. And do not forget that city management has changed drastically in the last year and a half. No longer are there managers in place who think drinking to excess while on a golf cart or at holiday functions is considered an appropriate standard.

Karma will prevail with any and all predators and "anyone" who was aware of this injustice and failed to protect!

"Rape is one of the most terrible crimes on earth and it happens every few minutes. The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape. Go to the source and start there." - by Kurt Cobain (A musician who wanted to make a strong statement in support of women and against violence ......)


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