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Submitted by on 1, September 2, 2010 – 10:43 am12 Comments

Updated 1:23 p.m. Thursday, September 2

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.


  • Husky Gurrrrl says:

    For once, city government is doing the right thing. This should be thoroughly investigated, audited and the fire chief charged accordingly. His entitled, defensive attitude as quoted here and in other news sources is breathtaking. He obviously has Leona Helms syndrome — he’s above the “little people”.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    I’m not about to justify or defend Chief Kapler’s behavior, but isn’t our fire department already understaffed enough that we can afford to place the chief on paid administrative leave and not have him available if there is a big fire?

    I’d rather see him working for his pay than sitting at home and out of the limelight.

  • Adam Gillitt says:

    I have to echo Mayor Johnson’s comments: I’m frustrated that Kapler wasn’t thoroughly vetted before he was hired, and can not fathom how his agreement for his personal vehicle use was not written down.

    That is sloppy management and is leads to the rightful questions people are now asking about concerning transparency in City Government. If our Mayor didn’t even know what was going on with her own Fire Chief, how can the rest of us?

    Alameda’s citizens deserve a better, more responsibly run city, with honest, open, accessible officials. This situation needs to be resolved immediately.

  • MNg says:

    Thank you Jon S. for pointing that out. I was pondering about that while reading the news as well. Either he gets suspended w/o pay and gets reimburse should the matter was cleared (or not at all if wrong doing was found)OR keeps working while under investigation.

    By engaging in questionable actions while on duty you get to stay home and get pay … mmmhhh wonder if I can try that at my workplace.

  • Hugh Tebault says:

    Paid $200,000, paid $250/month for travel – AND he takes free gasoline? Seriously wrong – 103 Gallons in June ? At 20 miles per gallon, he drove over 2,000 miles around Alameda that month?
    Best to investigate, if found guilty – cut him free now – DO NOT give him lifetime free benefits – he has already taken much more than his share.
    In private business, he would have already been fired for cause and immediately lost benefits. Stealing is wrong.

  • Mike P. says:

    Kapler knew he would get paid leave along with the free gas since he’s misappropriated public property before. What else will we find out, not just about him, but about other employees who use city cars. Would be insightful to see an analysis identifying these employees and their gallons pumped and miles driven per week compared to their responsibilities for the last five years. Of course this isn’t just about gas, it’s about the tax payers knowing when public employees are abusing their positions.

  • Ken Dose says:

    My guess is that Alameda gets way more production out of a new firefighter, than it has out of it’s $200,000 “gas guzzler”. I can only hope that Alameda is successful in seeing that justice is served.

  • Basel says:

    It would be reasonable to say that, if in fact, a verbal agreement was made to allow the Chief to fuel his personal car, it meant his Honda truck, not any, future or other combination of personal vehicles well into the future. He may well register his wife’s car, his children’s all under his name and it would be “allowed.” The chief went well beyond the scope of the verbal agreement.

  • KF says:

    If the city paid for his truck to be outfitted for official use, why wasn’t the arrangement for free gas documented in his contract? I’m not saying he’s lying about the verbal agreement, but it seems unwise not to commit that kind of detail to a contract.

    My other question is why anyone making $200 grand would take the free gas, even if it was permitted by his employment contract or verbal agreement. The city is so low on funds it had to lay off fire fighters and he’s making $200 grand. Doesn’t he know how bad this looks? Why can’t he pay the $200 for his own gas?

  • Gary Purnell says:

    The last three times the City hired a chief from outside the department. Most have had problems that caused dismissal. Next time hire from within. You would have someone with at lease 20 years experience in Alameda. They would have a understanding of the fire department members, The Fire Union, The City Council, The City Manager and of cource, most importanty, the needs of the citizens.
    And, guess what, you would have a 20+ year track record first hand!

  • Ron Garcia says:

    Maybe the firefighter union shoud be more concerned about actually being firefighters instead of trying to get their chief fired. These guys are the biggest joke in Alameda County. Seen them at the scene of fires and they have no clue what they are doing. Nice to Oakland fire show up and actually put out the fire.

  • k smith says:

    The chief did this same thing at prior jobs. Its about time he pay the price for his actions against the tax paying people.

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