Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ALCO: Former fire chief sues for $2 Million - Wrongful Termination

Former fire chief sues Calif. city for $2M
Fire Chief sued for inappropriately using city gas pumps to fuel his personal vehicle

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Former Alameda fire Chief Dave Kapler has filed a $2 million wrongful termination lawsuit against the city of Alameda, saying he was forced to quit his job.

Kapler resigned as chief in November amid accusations that he inappropriately used city gas pumps to fuel his personal vehicle. But in the lawsuit filed Thursday Kapler denies wrongdoing and says city officials targeted him on behalf of the firefighters union, which he claims did not approve of the tough stand he took against it during contract talks.

Kapler says in the lawsuit that he was allowed to use the city pumps to fuel his personal vehicle through a verbal agreement with former City Manager Debra Kurita, who hired him in October 2007.

He says he had an "exemplary" work history for more than 40 years and that he stepped down as chief to preserve his reputation when he learned that city officials were planning to fire him.

He is seeking compensation for lost wages, emotional distress and other damages.

Kapler says in the lawsuit that Councilmember Lena Tam conspired with the firefighters union and that his termination was "politically motivated."

Tam, Kurita and former Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant are named in the suit, which was filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

City officials placed Kapler on administrative leave in September after the photograph emerged showing him fueling his BMW coupe at a city gas pump.

Gallant then told him in a Sept. 17 letter that he was going to be fired on Sept. 24, which he notes in the suit was just a week before he would have been eligible to receive retirement benefits from the city.

Tam said she believes the lawsuit is without merit.

Kapler was right to quit because he was caught misusing public resources, she said.

"During a fiscal crisis that resulted in the closure of an Alameda fire station and reduction in firefighting staff and programs, Kapler's actions were stunningly irresponsible," Tam said.

As part of his contract with the city, Kapler's Honda Ridgeline truck was outfitted with a radio and other equipment so he could use it if needed. He also was given a $250 monthly car allowance, Tam said.

His salary was about $195,000 annually.

Firefighters took a "no confidence" vote on Kapler in June 2009, saying he was not doing enough to promote a safe level of staffing. Disgruntled firefighters are also believed to have leaked the photograph that showed Kapler at the city gas pump.

By Peter Hegarty - Source: http://www.insidebayarea.com - Article Link

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