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Lathrop agency fires firefighter charged with pub stabbing

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POSTED January 6, 2018 1:02 a.m.

The Lathrop-Manteca firefighter that was arrested last month for allegedly stabbing a Manteca pub patron in an altercation has been terminated from his employment with the agency.
According to Lathrop-Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely, Brandon Burlingame was fired this week after 12-years of employment with the department – most recently serving as an engineer. Neely said laws governing personnel issues don’t allow him to disclose the reason behind the firing.
But according to the policies and procedures within the bargaining unit contract that the Lathrop-Manteca Firefighter’s Association’s bargaining unit agreed to, several very specific general conduct guidelines appear to apply in the matter.
According to the document, “in matters of general conduct, members shall not commit any act tending to bring reproach or discredit upon the District or its members” and “no member shall act in a manner, or be party to any act which tends to impair the good order and discipline of the district.”
Neely said that the decision was made in accordance with the first ordinance outlining his duties as the fire chief for the preservation of the reputation of the district as a whole.
“I’m saddened by the circumstances that have come about as a result of this,” Neely said. “But I’m duty-bound to do what is right for the district in conjunction with ordinance one – that’s the most important thing.”
According to Ordinance No. 1 for the organization and rules for the Manteca-Lathrop Rural County Fire Protection District, “the fire chief shall maintain, and enforce an up-to-date, comprehensive set of rules and regulations concerning the discipline, training and operation of the fire department. The Chief shall be responsible to the Directors for the personnel, morale and general efficiency of the Department.”
The decision to terminate Burlingame’s employment means the department will not be paying his salary while he is fighting the criminal charges that have been filed against him. Burlingame apparently missed multiple days of work while being held on no-bail charges at the San Joaquin County Jail. According to a California State Personnel Board decision regarding incarceration as a suitable excuse, incarceration does not qualify for excused absences and missed work days when it violates a policy that is already in place.
According to the Memorandum of Understanding between the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District Administration and the Lathrop-Manteca Firefighters Association Local #4317 – obtained through a California Public Records Act Request – employees while off-duty are still subject to call if needed. Employees are also required to be in appropriate uniform and present for duty at their assigned stations at 8 a.m. when their 24-hour shift begins.
The policies and procedures also state that punctuality is required of all members. It reads “failure to report to duty or to place of assignment at the time specified will be considered cause for disciplinary action.”
According to reports, Burlingame was with other individuals at The Pub and Longue in Manteca on Dec. 1 when an altercation broke out. He is believed to have left the bar and returned with a knife, eventually stabbing a 43-year-old bar patron before fleeing the scene. Witnesses reported seeing a man wearing a Jus Brothers motorcycle kutte leave the scene, and an investigation by the Manteca Police Department Street Crimes Unit eventually led to his arrest on Dec. 7.
He was charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, and remained in the San Joaquin County Jail without a bail amount until Dec. 23 when a judge reduced the no-bail hold to $100,000 and he was able to post the amount.
Neely had just arrived at the operations center for the Thomas Fire, which has burned more than 291,000 acres and is still burning, near Ventura when he received the call that Burlingame was arrested. He left immediately to come back to Lathrop to handle the media requests that came pouring into the district once the Manteca Police Department announced his arrest.
“While we consider this an isolated incident, we fully understand that this may call into question the trust and communities we serve,” district officials said in an official statement released in advance of the Manteca Police’s disclosure of his arrest. “From the highest levels of ranking officers and the over 50 members within the organization, we can assure you that we will continue to work in strengthening our relationship ties to our constituents through the mission of the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email jcampbell@mantecabulletin.com or call 209.249.3544.

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