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Fire marshal resigns after meth arrest

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POSTED June 4, 2009 2:00 a.m.
LATHROP – The Lathrop-Manteca Fire District fire marshal who was arrested last week on several drug-related charges while on duty and while driving a fire district utility vehicle has resigned.

District board chairman Bennie Gatto confirmed Wednesday night that Jeffrey Scialabba, 29, of Manteca who is also the step-son-in-law of the district’s interim fire chief, turned in his resignation on Monday.

His resignation came nearly a week after his arrest. He was placed on administrative leave from the day of his arrest to the time of his resignation, Gatto said.

“I’d say, yes, I think that’s the best way. It was quick and easy. I didn’t want this thing to turn into a Matt Browne issue,” Gatto said of the former fire marshal’s brief stint on administrative leave and eventual resignation.

The board chairman was also referring to the long-embattled former Lathrop chief building official whose wrongful termination complaint against the city is just now coming to a close after nearly two years of being snagged in bureaucracy. Last month, the judge who presided over Browne’s hearing recommended that the city restore Browne to his old post, and give him his back pay from the time of his wrongful termination in February 2008 by then-city manager Yvonne Quiring plus his other benefit compensations such as vacation pay and sick leave. Before he was fired without any explanation, Browne was placed on administrative leave, also without any written explanation, with pay from July 2007 to February 2008.

Schialabba was described as a “civilian employee.” Prior to his resignation, he has been a fire marshal for three years. He was hired as fire marshal by former Fire Chief Jim Monty a year before he retired.

“He had construction experience. I guess, Jim thought he was the best candidate at the time (for the position). The board didn’t hire him. This (hiring) is done by staff. We don’t get involved in that,” Gatto explained.

Schialabba is facing charges of possession of a small amount of methamphetamine, transportation of methamphetamine, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The fire marshal was reportedly just cited at the Manteca Police Department for the felony drug charges, and was just released with the promise to appear in court at a later date, when Manteca patrolman Ian Osborn first spotted him running a stop sign at the corner of Eucalyptus and Sun West Place. Schialabba was reportedly talking on a cell phone when he ran through the stop sign. He was eventually pulled over by Osborn at Center Street and Union Road. After he made the stop, Osborn noticed the methamphetamine inside the fire district utility vehicle.
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