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Submitted by on 1, April 18, 2011 – 11:33 am7 Comments

Updated at 5:44 p.m. Monday, April 18

Former Alameda Fire Chief David Kapler has filed a $2 million wrongful termination lawsuit against the city.

Kapler, who resigned his post on November 5, is claiming City Councilwoman Lena Tam and the local firefighters union conspired to destroy his reputation and get rid of him due to sour relations at the bargaining table and that former Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant assisted their cause by giving Kapler a termination letter. Tam, Gallant and former City Manager Debra Kurita are named in the suit.

Kapler also accuses the city of cheating him out of his retirement benefits in the suit, filed Thursday in Alameda County Superior Court.

Kapler made national news in August after he was photographed using the city’s pumps to gas up a blue BMW coupe he owned.  He accuses city officials of blowing his gas use out of proportion in order to get rid of him and says stories about him contained “false and defamatory allegations” that he used city gas without permission which city officials did nothing to correct.

At the time, Kapler said he had an oral agreement with Kurita allowing him to use the city’s gas for his personal vehicles, but Gallant said Kapler’s claim was the result of a “miscommunication” and that he was only allowed to use city gas for a personal truck specially outfitted for work use.

Kapler was placed on administrative leave in September, and his suit says he got a letter from Gallant on September 17 informing him he’d be fired on September 24 – a week before his retirement benefits were set to kick in. The council decided to fire him on October 31, the suit says, and he submitted a resignation letter in an effort to preserve his reputation on November 5, it says.

He says in the suit he established an “exemplary” track record on the job since being hired in October 2007 and across a 40-year work history. But additional allegations about Kapler’s conduct in other posts surfaced after the pictures of him gassing up his car were published.

Acting City Attorney Donna Mooney said the city had just received the suit and was evaluating it, and a representative for the firefighters’ union declined to comment. But Tam said the council raised the issue with Gallant after learning of it and prior allegations regarding Kapler’s conduct and that she spoke up because city funds were being misused.

“I approved of Mr. Kapler’s resignation following his stunningly irresponsible actions in using city gas pumps to fill personal vehicles. I can’t imagine the city would offer him anything on this lawsuit,” Tam said.


  • John Piziali says:

    He had a verbal agreement with the City Manager to use as much gas as he wanted to in his personal vehicles??. This was our city manager and Fire Chief making agreements like that, no wonder they are gone.

  • Adam Gillitt says:

    With a culture like http://www.fearnotlaw.com/articles/article28370.html at the Alameda Fire Department, one wonders how much of the story we’re not hearing?

  • carol says:

    Gallant & Tam on the same side of a suit? Now that’s a switch!

  • MorelandDrive says:

    He got hired in 2007, served three years and he’s suing for $2 million in retirement benefits? How big a retirement package is he entitled to for three years of work?

  • Joel says:

    How does Kaplan (and his lawyers) believe they will overcome the legal presumption that verbal contracts are null when there is in place a written contract of employment? Contracts is a well settled portion of law, which is why you merely hear salacious details rather than arguments of law when these arise in the news.

    Verbal, schmerbal. In the presence of a written, declared contract of employment there can be no verbal agreements. Case law is not a friend to Kaplan. So begins the attempt at settlement, and a 40% contingency fee for whichever lame firm took this case.

    If the city settles, they are fools. Cost/benefit analysis has no place in contesting this controversy.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    I would have thought that Chief Kapler would have been relatively happy to have escaped with as little indignity as he did. This suit makes him look greedy, which I do not believe is his intention. (Of course, looking like he was skimming gas for personal use did not do him any favors, either, and he did not have thar permission in writing, as I understand it.)

  • mmorgon says:

    Look folks, these 3 to 5 year wonders that cities hire are not fire chiefs. They are deputy city managers in fire chief clothing. They have no connection to the city or people, much less the fire department. Alameda followed the trend of getting these outsiders when one chief stood up to a former city manager. That city manager was soon fired. That was the end of that. So this is what we got. How many of you feel that you should earn any benefits after a 3 to five year career of standing in front of a podium? I feel if you served the community for 25 to 30 years putting out fires and responded to medical calls then you’ve fullfilled your contract. And, during that time, if you happen to rise to the rank of fire chief, well good for you.

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