Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Alameda fire chief gases up his vehicles on city's dime

Budget cuts in Alameda have shuttered a fire station and resulted in the layoffs of firefighters, but the town's $195,702-a-year fire chief is getting unlimited free fill-ups for both his BMW convertible sports car and his Honda pickup truck at the city pump.

Disgruntled firefighters caught Fire Chief David Kapler on camera over the weekend taking advantage of the perk and forwarded the photos to Mayor Beverly Johnson - who promptly called the vacationing city manager for an explanation.
"In my opinion, it was a very inappropriate thing to do," the mayor said of Kapler's habit of filling his cars with gratis gasoline.
Kapler, however, says it's no secret that he regularly gases up his personal cars at the city pump. He says the free gas is part of the deal he cut with then-City Manager Debra Kurita when he signed on as chief in 2007.
"Since I don't drive a city vehicle," Kapler said, "I was given the option to drive my own vehicle and to have access to city gas for all my vehicles for my personal use."
Maybe, but Kapler's contract doesn't actually say anything about fueling up for free.
"It is not in there," Karen Willis, the city's human resources director, told us after looking over the agreement. "Whether there was some other understanding, I don't know."
The contract does state that given his round-the-clock duties, the chief is entitled to a $250-a-month car allowance if he uses his own car "for 'on call' responsibilities."
Dom Weaver, president of the 86-member Alameda Firefighters Association, which is battling the city over a new contract and voted "no confidence" in the chief last year, said, "I'm shocked and disappointed this is going on, especially in light of the current conditions we're facing."
However, it should be noted that it has been going on for years - with the chief often filling up at a pump right next to the firehouse.
Seems no one cared all that much - until Alameda hit on hard times, laying off three firefighters and scrapping 15 unfilled positions 15 months ago.
Johnson, however, said she hadn't known about the chief's free gasoline until firefighters showed her the photos Tuesday morning.
"The city manager wasn't aware of it, and I am sure she will conduct a full review of what has occurred here," Johnson said.

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