ALAMEDA -- A state appeals court has upheld the decision by city officials to terminate former Alameda fire Chief Dave Kapler, who quit nearly two years ago after a photograph emerged that showed him using a city gas pump to fuel his BMW.
Kapler denied wrongdoing and maintained the accusations against him stemmed from disgruntled rank-and-file firefighters angry over his leadership. He also said his contract allowed him to use the pump to fuel a personal vehicle while carrying out city business.
On Thursday, the court rejected Kapler's claims of breach of contract and wrongful termination, saying his employment agreement showed he could be fired at any time under the city manager's discretion.
Ann Marie Gallant, who was interim city manager, initially moved to fire Kapler in September 2010.
He then worked out a deal with Gallant that called for the city to pay him $75,000 and to provide insurance benefits after his departure in exchange for him quitting and dropping any claims against the city.
The City Council rejected the agreement, however, and Kapler resigned in November 2010 in "an effort to preserve what he claimed was a 40-year exemplary employment record," according to court documents.
His salary as Alameda fire chief was about $195,000 annually.
As part of his October 2007 contract, Kapler's Honda Ridgeline truck was outfitted with a radio and other equipment so he could use it if needed; he also was given
Debra Kurita, who was city manager at the time, told him he could use city gas, Kapler said, although City Council members said they did not know about the arrangement and never approved it.
The internal city investigation showed Kapler fueling his BMW, his non-equipped car.
"Kurita and other city employees recalled making it clear the gas benefit was limited to the vehicle the city would equip for emergency use," the court said.
The photograph showing Kapler at the city pump was leaked by Domenick Weaver, president of the local firefighters union, the court said.
It followed firefighters taking a "no confidence" vote in Kapler in June 2009, saying he was not doing enough to promote a safe level of staffing. The photograph also emerged after the closure of an Alameda fire station to save money.
The ruling Thursday was handed down by the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco.
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty/.