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Lathrop Manteca fire chief is on ice for investigation

Lathrop Manteca Fire District Chief Gene Neely – who has been at the helm of the district for more than a decade – is currently out on administrative leave pending an investigation into an unknown matter.

According to current fire board vice chair Gloryanna Rhodes, the details of the investigation can’t be released to the public because the matter is a personnel issue and privacy laws prevent that information from being made public.

The Lathrop Manteca Fire District Board of Directors are set to meet tonight at 6 p.m. at Lathrop City Hall – located at 390 Towne Centre Drive – to discuss the temporary appointment to two positions, fire chief and board secretary, that were previously held by Neely.

While he has been out of the office for two weeks, the district has been without formal administrative leadership during that time – something Rhodes chalks up to the streamlined operations of the district and the nature of the business itself.

“He (Neely) has been gone a lot because of stuff with the strike teams and his other responsibilities, so this is a district that really can run itself and that is what has been happening,” Rhodes said. “But there are some things, development things, where we need a person that is going to take that responsibility and sign off on them because the board can’t do that.

“We’ve had a couple of meetings about this in closed session, and that’s why we’re going to talk about the appointment of acting chief tomorrow in open session.”

The board will also discuss the appointments to two positions on the board itself – chair and vice chair – after the unexpected resignation of the position by former chair Tosh Ishihara last month. Ishihara remains on the board but is no longer serving in his previous capacity. It is unknown whether the resignation had anything to do with the issues behind the scenes, but board policy prevents members from holding more than one position, and if Rhodes were to be installed as the new chair it would require somebody else to take the position that would be vacant as a result of her ascension.

The board is scheduled to discuss Neely’s job performance in closed session as part of a review and will also discuss three potential cases with lawyers – listed on agenda as “anticipated litigation” because of “significant exposure to litigation.” If there is reportable action on Neely’s job performance or the potential litigation it will be reported out at the beginning of the public portion of the special meeting.

Additional scheduled items on the agenda include a discussion about the board’s email – which was referred to the agenda by board member Jeremy Coe.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.