UPDATED: ALAMEDA FIRE CHIEF ON ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE
Alameda Fire Chief David Kapler has been placed on administrative leave following revelations he used the city’s gas pumps to fuel his personal vehicles and that he had faced similar allegations in at least one previous department.
Deputy City Manager Lisa Goldman said Kapler had been placed on paid leave until further notice as of Thursday and that Operations Chief Mike Fisher would step in as acting chief. Goldman didn’t offer a reason for the chief being placed on leave, saying she couldn’t comment further because it is a personnel matter.
Some members of the city council demanded an investigation after Kapler was photographed on August 14 fueling a blue BMW coupe at the fire department’s pumps, something some firefighters said they had witnessed on several other occasions. Kapler reportedly faced accusations that he misused a city vehicle when he was chief of the Tahoe-Douglas Fire District in the 1990s, though he told The Island his employment contract there allowed him to use the vehicle for personal trips.
Kapler said he had a verbal agreement with former City Manager Debra Kurita allowing him to fuel his personal vehicles at the city’s pumps, but Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant said that agreement only extended to Kapler’s Honda Ridgeline truck, which the city outfitted for Kapler’s official use. Gallant said she planned to seek modifications to Kapler’s contract and reimbursement for city gas Kapler used.
The department’s fuel logs showed that Kapler filled up seven times during the month of June, consuming 103 gallons of city gas, and four times during a two-week span in July, using 66 gallons. Earlier records weren’t available because the city was apparently not tracking Kapler’s gas use, as they do for everyone else in the department.
After the allegations surfaced, Councilwoman Lena Tam called for the chief to be placed on administrative leave while the allegations against him were investigated, while Mayor Beverly Johnson wanted to know why the previous allegations against Kapler weren’t discovered before Kapler was hired. Johnson also expressed anger that gasoline use and other terms of Kapler’s contract were approved without the council’s consent. Kapler was apparently Alameda’s only city employee with the right to fuel a personal vehicle at the city’s pumps.
Kapler’s written employment agreement shows that he earned a starting salary of $195,702, and that he is eligible for lifetime medical benefits as of October 1 if he doesn’t voluntarily resign or retire before that date.
Tam said Thursday that she had repeatedly raised issues about Kapler with the city’s management, to no avail. She said she has since been contacted by people who raised issues about Kapler’s performance in other places where he has worked.
“People are coming out of the woodwork saying there’s a real problem here,” Tam said Thursday. “And we can’t turn a blind eye to it.”
Tam called the press over Kapler’s fuel use “a black eye” and “an embarrassment to the City of Alameda.”
Johnson said she didn’t have any comment on Thursday’s announcement.
Domenick Weaver, president of Alameda’s firefighters union, said he’s happy city officials took the Kapler matter seriously. But he was quick to distance firefighters from the allegations against the fire chief. No one else at the department has been accused of wrongdoing.
“We hope the community realizes that this is about the chief, and that this has nothing to do with us,” Weaver said.