JC Fire Chief accused of sexual harassment

JOHNSON CITY -- Johnson City Fire Chief Paul Souder, an Elizabethton resident, has been accused of sexual harassment by Sgt. Charles Alexander, a member of his department.
   In the complaint lodged in a letter written Jan. 25, the sergeant accuses Chief Souder of lewd behavior and harassment during the past 12 years.
   Sgt. Alexander, a 21-year veteran of the department, said his problems with Chief Souder go back to 1990 when a group of firefighters worked to get a petition against Souder, who was then assistant chief. The petition never made it to superiors. Alexander said the petition was destroyed by firefighters for fear of repercussions.
   Sgt. Alexander said at that time, men on the A shift did not want to work for Souder due to the "perverted sex acts he did toward men."
   Alexander said that throughout the years, he has witnessed several instances of Souder "grabbing" the sex organs of members of the all-male fire department. The complaint alleges that Alexander felt administrative actions were aimed at him because of Souder, including being denied "light duty" after a firetruck accident and not being allowed to file for overtime when the chief "threatened" him into extra schooling.
   Alexander said the most recent event was on Sept. 20 when he was at Fire Station 3 picking up his paycheck. "Chief Souder passed behind me and squeezed the cheek of my rear and kept going," Alexander said in the complaint.
   An investigation will be made into the charges said City Public Safety Director Charles Harmon.