Rank and file firefighters are pushing for the immediate removal of Manteca Fire Chief Kyle Shipherd.
In a letter sent Monday to City Manager Miranda Lutzow from Manteca Firefighters Local 1874, the union noted the “overwhelming majority” of its membership no longer has confidence in Shipherd’s abilities to manage and lead the Manteca Fire Department. The letter noted it was the union’s “official notice” regarding their view of Shipherd’s effectiveness stating they support “the immediate removal” of the fire chief.
Lutzow declined further comment other than to acknowledge receipt of the letter.
As city manager, Lutzow is directly responsible for not just the supervision of department heads but also their hiring and firing.
The letter from the firefighters union comes five weeks after Shipherd filed a claim against the city alluding he may lose more than $1 million in retirement compensation that he says he is entitled to and may have to spend up to $800,000 in legal fees to make sure that doesn’t happen. Filing such a claim, unless you have been terminated or have left city employment, is unheard of.
Union grievances predate
current city council and
Lutzow’s tenure as city manager
The claim was filed after Lutzow confirmed plans to relocate the fire chief’s headquarters from the Union Road station to space at the Civic Center complex formerly occupied by the San Joaquin District Attorney’s office. The space is also being remodeled to accommodate the new in-house city attorney, the public works director as well as their administrative staffs. The same goes for the fire department administrative staff that also includes the fire marshal.
The move to have the city management team in one location is designed to step up collaboration and help move city projects that usually involve multi-departments forward more quickly as well as make the city more responsible to residents’ needs
The grievances predate the current council as well as Lutzow’s tenure as city manager.
“Unfortunately this vote of no confidence has loomed for many years due to consistent issues with lack of trust, lack of communication, misinformation, lack of competency for the position, lack of leadership, lack of vision and direction of the department, nepotism, unprofessional and/or disrespectful behavior, all lending to what members view as a complete lack of adherence to the Manteca Fire Department core values,” the letter stated. “Those are the values of Professionalism. Respect, Integrity, Dedication, and Excellence are held dear to the members of the Local 1874 and were jointly created with now retired Fire Chief Kirk Waters.”
The letter also states the union has “gone to extraordinary lengths” to present department and labor issues, collect member feedback, provide morale status, as well as highlighting deficiencies and paths forward to repair these deficiencies “with little to no success.”
It goes on to state “this work and these concerns have been consistently not addressed or dismissed as not true. Instead he has used his authority to manipulate, coerce, and even retaliate against members of the fire department and Local 1874.”
The union called the vote of no confidence and letter sent to the city manager as “a last resort.”
Claim is legal prerequisite
of Shipherd filing lawsuit
Filling the claim five weeks ago alluding to monetary losses was essentially a pre-emptive strike of sorts designed to stop the city manager from either terminating — or trying to terminate — his employment with the city.
The filing of a claim is the first legal step in a process that could lead to the filing of a lawsuit against the city by Shipherd.
Shipherd, in his claim, says he is not an “at-will” employee. It is a position the city contends is incorrect.
The claim makes a point of inferring that the fire chief should be working in office space at an actual fire station as opposed to city hall.
There are five fire stations that the fire chief oversees.
A parallel example is the public works director. While he oversees the wastewater treatment plant, streets division, water operations, and solid waste among other municipal functions his primary office is at city hall.
The fire chief’s office is just over a mile away on Union Road.
This past summer, Community Development Services was relocated to leased space a block away from city hall at Center Street and Union Road. The move was predicated by the city losing its lease on Cherry Lane office space that housed human resources as well as information and technology creating the need to move them to the main campus.
Having the city’s technology hub and support staff on the civic center campus instead of in rented space was considered a higher priority as was having the department that deals with personnel concerns and risk management issues.
Plans are to move the Community Development Services back onto the campus once existing buildings are remodeled and expanded.
Given Shipherd is still employed, the claim states “should” he be wrongfully terminated that it would impact the amount of retirement he would receive for the rest of his life that is estimated at more than $1 million. Shipherd is also considered about the prospect of using roughly 2,000 hours of sick leave that he could 50 percent to service credit and 50 payment to a retirement health savings plan if he is not able to “continue working until his chose retirement date.”
Shipherd has been with the Manteca Fire Department for over 24 years including the past four years as fire chief. Shipherd’s overall compensation in 2019 was $301,395.12. That includes $189,903 in regular pay plus $23,114.77 in other pay for total pay of $222,017.77. His benefits cost the city $42,058.85. That is in addition to the city paying $37,318.50 toward his pension.
His son Kenton Raymond Shipherd is a Measure M funded firefighter whose total pay in 2019 was $127,350. By the time pension debt and benefits are added. His compensation last year was $157,031.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com