By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Ex-fire chief blasts city over Matt Browne case
Placeholder Image

LATHROP - Former Lathrop-Manteca Fire District Chief Jerry Sims has come out of retirement.

It isn’t, however, to pursue another career.

Sims said he is tired of seeing the Matt Browne case stretched indefinitely and letting  taxpayers’ money being used in what he called a "frivolous" complaint against the city's former Chief Building Official.

After reading newspaper reports about the Matt Browne hearing before the City Council on June 23, and the publication of Browne's personal statement in the online Manteca Bulletin ( which he did not have time to deliver during the hearing, Sims put the council members to task by asking a number of pointed questions.

Among the questions he has asked the council:

•1. Why did they give Browne only seven minutes to speak on his behalf about the accusations lodged against him after two years of asking that he wants his hearing to be open to the public?

•2. Was the case against Browne a personal issue?

•3. Why did the city allow a private investigator to tail the former chief building official for four days and violate his privacy rights by following him, video camcorder in hand, in the men's room of the Manteca Municipal Golf Course?

•4. Did the council members even read the hearing judge's report containing his recommendations after the two-week’s worth of hearing testimonies in September and October 2008?

•5. And why did Mayor Kristy Sayles announce to the public, and give notice specifically to the news media, that that there would be no announcement after the council's closed session following Browne's public hearing on June 23?

"You made a mistake.... I've been in many, many meetings. You never say that. You told the press to leave," Sims told the council at last week's meeting.

By doing so, Sims said the council left the public the perception about what was going to take place in closed session.

"That's a big red flag," he said.

He also told the council, "This case has gone on for two years. Did any of you read the judge's report? Some of the stuff going on here is not right."

He also noted that the council had two months' time to read the 2,000 pages of the judge's report and yet none of them, with the exception of the mayor, and nobody even asked a single question about it.

Responding to Sims' questions and comments, Sayles said, "I understand your frustration" but that "the council wanted to not rush from judgment.... We're being thoughtful and deliberate in approaching this case," adding, "we have to be protected due to the Skelly process."

Her statement prompted the retired fire chief to note that this was the first time he has ever heard the Skelly process ever mentioned. "That (the Skelly process) should have been done before" at the beginning of the case against Browne.

Browne's lawyer, San Francisco public employee attorney Ellen Mendelson, has maintained from the beginning that the city has denied her client his Skelly rights.

A "Skelly" is defined as a hearing that has to be provided to an employee before a disciplinary action is imposed. In general, a Skelly must be provided in cases involving termination, demotion or suspension, among other things.

Browne was placed on administrative leave with pay in July 2007 the day before he was going to report back to work after being given the green light to do so by his medical doctor. Browne went on medical leave and worker's comp after being injured on the job repairing and rehabilitating the Senior Center. The council at that time decided to utilize the services of some city employees and community volunteers to save money.

In February 2008, Browne was fired by then-City Manager Yvonne Quiring.

On both occasions, Browne said he was never given an explanation about his administrative leave and his firing.
To contact Rose Albano Risso, e-mail or call (209) 249-3536.