Fire chief’s gas use curbed after revelations
Alameda Fire Chief David Kapler’s claim that he has the right to use the city’s gas pumps to fuel any vehicle he owns came as a result of a “miscommunication” between Kapler and the city manager who hired him in 2007, the city’s current top official said Wednesday night.
Still, Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant said she has moved to curb the practice, and that she plans to make changes to ensure city leaders have better oversight over fuel use – and employment agreements with the city’s top managers.
“On a ‘going forward’ basis, the Chief will ONLY be using city gasoline for the ‘truck’, and he and I will be discussing the appropriate action and reimbursement of any other fuel used these past months,” Gallant wrote in an e-mail to The Island on Wednesday.
The “truck” is Kapler’s Honda Ridgeline, which the city specially outfitted with a radio, lights and sirens when he opted to use it to fulfill his on-call responsibilities in lieu of a city vehicle.
Gallant said former City Manager Debra Kurita offered Kapler a “verbal commitment” allowing him to use the city’s gas pumps to fuel the truck he owns because she deemed it cheaper than giving Kapler a city vehicle for his full-time use, as the city had done for its previous fire chief. But firefighters began raising concerns about his pumping practices this weekend after someone photographed Kapler fueling a blue BMW coupe at a city fire station.
Kapler told a reporter on Tuesday that his agreement, which included a base salary of $195,702 and a monthly car allowance of $250, allowed him to use the city’s gas for both the cars he drives because he is always on call, even when he is off duty. But Gallant said Kurita told her that offer extended only to his truck.
“(It) was a miscommunication between the two, probably due to the brevity of it and the rush to get an offer letter finalized. It was obviously missed in the offer letter,” Gallant said.
A reporter was unable to reach Kurita for comment on Wednesday.
Kapler was apparently the only management employee in the city who had the option of using the city’s pumps to fill his own gas tank, Gallant said Wednesday. And she said Kurita ended the city’s past practice of allowing employees to use city vehicles for personal business more than two years ago.
Gallant said city leaders are already working toward producing a standard compensation plan for Alameda’s top executives that more clearly spells out salaries and benefits. Meanwhile, she said the city’s public works department is conducting an audit of city fuel use, including an audit of fuel use at the city’s fire stations that she said should take about a week.
Gallant said she will also seek to automate the fire stations’ fuel pumps, eliminating the handwritten logs now used to track how much gas everyone pumps.