PRESSURE FROM ABOVE: The Old Drill Tower, Fire Dept.Headquarters
Waco – The beginning of the end of Lt. Kevin Fisk’s probe into the facts of a suspicious sudden blaze – a possible explosion – that killed three members of a single-mother family was information- driven, the central conflict the result of a double cross by the police detective in charge of the questionable death investigation and the department’s Public Information Officer, Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton.
The duo had agreed with Fisk at the beginning of the dual investigation that they would hold off releasing any further information to the public until the three had a chance to coordinate their statements.
Fisk was surprised to learn, then, in an October 2, 2012 KWTX Channel 2 News report by Paul Gately, that the police department had made a finding of accidental death and that, furthermore, “a fire marshal” had gone on record that certain “persons of interest” in the investigation were “rising to the top” of the list of possible suspects.
As far as he knew, he, Fisk, was the only one in the Fire Marshal’s office conducting an investigation, and neither he had made any such statement, nor had Fire Marshal Kevin Vranich.
Nevertheless, the resulting conflict followed him through a number of previously reported and increasingly complicated evolutions until his resignation nearly five years later.
In the ensuing years, no one ran down the leads he had developed from interviews with witnesses willing to name names and offering corroborative evidence and testimony about a suspect. The best he knew, the police detective, John Rozysky, had placed the material in “property” without developing the evidence.
In this exclusive interview, Fisk begins by agreeing that the root of the problem is in the very fact of the information itself.
But the conflict is on two levels, or actually two separate streams of consciousness, and it’s an intricate series of events that are not all that easy to comprehend, though they are thoroughly documented by his records.
Fisk turned over to Vranich all his digital records, including witness statements, recordings, and information related to officer misconduct on a hard drive he acquired on his own when his file became too large for his computer. This he did on pain of being fired if he did not turn the information over by 5 pm that day. Vranich then transferred it onto a hard drive furnished by the City of Waco, and returned Fisk’s hard drive to him, undeleted, on October 14, 2014.
According to his legal advisor, Fisk declared, at that point, the information then became became his personal property and lost its status as confidential, the work product of an investigator involved in a criminal case.
When Fisk turned this device over to his attorney for safe-keeping, the man advised him it is thereby privileged by an attorney-client relationship.
On July 22, 2015, after Assistant City Attorney Judyth Benton “had already told a union attorney they were not going to and had no intention of seeking any fit-for-duty proceeding,” Fisk recalls from his records; “The mere knowledge that I had turned over the hard drive to my attorney led to the decision to place me on administrative leave pending a psychological evaluation.”
As he recalls, when Vranich asked him what was on his hard drive, he replied that it was none of his business. Why? “It was privileged information,” he said.
“I am giving you a direct order to tell me what is on that hard drive,” Vranich reportedly demanded. Again, Fisk demurred, saying it was a matter of attorney-client privilege, something sacrosanct in spite of his orders, direct or otherwise.
It is his central allegation that when this was learned, he was reinstated, and his records furthermore reflect that he was informed in no uncertain terms that it was just a matter of time before he would be dismissed for cause, triggering the loss of all benefits. In the period after these events, he began to rack up a large number of infractions of administrative rules, though he had no status as an investigator. In fact, he was ordered to assist with investigations of questionable fires.
Had he been dismissed for cause, he would have lost all benefits accrued and owed him at that time, as well as facing the economic uncertainty of unemployment.
He chose to resign.
Since that time, though Swanton told media outlets at the time of the news report to KWTX and others that it could always be reopened, the murder probe has gone exactly nowhere.