BISBEE — While denying that he was aware of any sexual harassment issues inside the Bisbee Fire Department, former Fire Chief George Castillo admitted that he failed to follow procedure when a female firefighter told him she was being victimized by a former fire captain.
Castillo, 53, retired from the Bisbee Fire Department last month in the wake of an investigation that revealed a culture of sexual harassment by one captain in particular, Raul Villasenor.
The query, done by an outside human resources firm, blames Castillo for not taking action when the victim approached him in June and for looking the other way when learning of Villasenor’s behavior. Villasenor resigned in September.
Thursday morning, Castillo told the Herald/Review that he worked for the fire department for almost 31 years and was never written up or disciplined for any wrongdoing. He said the sexual harassment investigation has damaged his reputation, that he was not hiding anything and was unaware of any issues regarding sexual harassment.
He said he was going to retire next year, but the query hastened his plans.
“I feel like it’s very important to state that I was never under investigation for sexual harassment,” Castillo said. “I was under investigation for not following the proper policies and procedures. I also did not treat females differently and I did not know that there was sexual harassment going on.”
The investigator who authored the inquiry— which took about two months and was completed on Sept. 7 — specifically chastised Castillo for holding a meeting with the victim, the fire department’s three male captains, including Villasenor and himself, to discuss the sexual harassment allegations. Castillo said the victim had agreed to the meeting beforehand and he claims she also requested that her accusations against Villasenor not be taken to the city’s human resources director.
The investigator said Castillo stacked the deck against the victim, forcing her to air her grievance in front of her supervisors and then suggesting she sign a short note stating the complaint would go no further.
The former fire chief said the victim was not forced to sign the note and that it was her idea to keep the claims of sexual harassment in-house.
Castillo conceded he should have taken the victim’s claims to human resources immediately.
“I failed to follow proper policies and procedures by not reporting this to personnel,” he said.
He also thanked members of the community who stuck by him during and after the investigation.
“Thank you for the opportunity to share my side of the story,” Castillo said. “It’s been an honor to serve the community.”