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Reached by phone, Chief Robinson said he stands by his version of the conversation. Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Dillion, who the documents say was present for the exchange, has retired from Sarasota government and could not be reached for comment.

Four incidents

Chief Ellerbe, in an email, characterized the incidents as part of a union backlash over an initiative he began in Sarasota to reduce overtime costs.

“This created tension with the union, prompting them to encourage a member to falsely accuse me,” he wrote. “Once they realized that I was prepared to initiate legal action, the accuser failed to materialize.”

But in an interview, the woman who initiated the complaint that appears in Chief Ellerbe’s file, 10-year department veteran Carolyn Norwood, disputed Chief Ellerbe’s claim that she was put up to filing a statement by the Sarasota fire department’s union.

“He had made it very clear when he took the position that he doesn’t put up with anything, and it’s his way,” Ms. Norwood said, adding that she feared she would be passed over for a promotion if it was known at the time she was the one who filed the complaint.

“I had the utmost respect for him until these events took place and affected me professionally and emotionally,” Ms. Norwood said.

In her written statement, Ms. Norwood wrote that on four occasions between August 2009 and June 2010, the chief looked her up and down in a way that made her uncomfortable. Initially, she said, she tried to brush off the encounters and thought that, perhaps, the chief was looking at a name tag or her uniform.

“I thought it was my imagination, but other women said, ‘No, that happened to me, too,’ ” Ms. Norwood said.

The final encounter that led to her decision to lodge an informal complaint occurred at a meeting prior to a firefighter’s funeral. She described wearing casual civilian clothes, including a T-shirt and long cargo shorts.

“While standing in front of him during my self-introduction, Chief Ellerbe again looked me up and down. At this introduction, I held eye contact and again saw his eyes linger at the area of my chest,” Ms. Norwood stated in her complaint.

According to a report on the incident by the Sarasota County government, Chief Ellerbe said he conducted uniform inspections and often looked at employees’ shirts or badges, where employees’ names were printed, in order to learn their names.

Chief Ellerbe said in an interview that he recalled conducting a uniform inspection before a firefighter’s funeral but reiterated that the sexual-harassment claim was false.

“The allegation of sexual harassment was false,” Chief Ellerbe said. “I don’t do the kind of things that were alleged.”

In an email, Chief Ellerbe said he requested an investigation into the incident.

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