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Money to burn: Neely gets $14K a month to go away via taxpayers
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Former Lathrop Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely retired from the fire service more than a month ago, but he’s going to continue getting a monthly check from the district through June of 2022.

The check is for $14,808.52. And that’s on top of his generous retirement.

According to a settlement reached between Neely, his attorney, the Lathrop Manteca Fire Board, and the attorney representing the district, Neely will receive one year’s salary as compensation for his service to the district. That is in addition to the money that he is receiving from the San Joaquin County Employee’s Retirement System, of which the district is a member.

A Tier 1 employee in that system working in a public safety job that is 55-years old and spent 30 years on the job, according to the retirement plan’s online calculator, would receive an estimated monthly retirement amount of $13,328.11 if they were making the $177,702.20 specified in Neely’s contract.

The agreement also specifies that Neely can convert the 4,332 hours of sick time he has accumulated into monthly medical benefits for his family – with 24 hours being converted for every month of coverage. If premiums were $2,000-a-month for the district, that means Neely has enough sick time accumulated to pay for 15 years of medical coverage at a value of $360,000 – in addition to his retirement stipend and the year’s salary the district will continue to pay him.

That means that Neely will walk away with more than $500,000 worth of salary and benefits from the district – in addition to the ongoing annual payments he will draw from the county’s retirement system for the rest of his life.

With his pension income added to his settlement, means Neely’s total compensation will technically become one of the highest paid fire chiefs in the State of California – earning more than the San Francisco Fire Chief made just two years ago, but slightly less than their counterpart in the City of Los Angeles – for the next 12 months.

As part of the settlement agreement, Neely agreed to hold the district harmless from any claims stemming from his decades of employment – including claims that may come as a result of the work that he did as a firefighter – and agreed to never file a lawsuit against the district that he used to manage.

While the nature of what led to his departure from the district is not publicly known, the agreement makes it clear he was placed on administrative leave on March 18 pending an investigation into claims made against him – “the outcome of which could have resulted in initiation of disciplinary proceedings by the District up to and including the termination of his employment.”

The cost of the legal firm hired by the District to carry out those proceedings – Kroloff, Belcher, Smart, Perry & Christopherson, a Stockton-based law firm – will be paid for by the district, even though Neely retired before the findings were delivered.

The settlement information released by the district’s legal counsel on Monday was not disclosed during a report about the board’s decisions in closed session when they formally accepted Neely’s retirement – which was a required stipulation of the agreement. A section of the agreement specifies that it would remain confidential – between the district and Neely and nobody else – and would not be made public with the exception of a subpoena, a California Public Records Act request, or to remain in compliance with the Ralph M. Brown Act.

Both sides agreed to a “no admission” clause that specifies that neither the District or Neely admit to any wrongdoing or liability – with the District “expressly and vehemently” denying “any and all liability or wrongdoing whatsoever with regards to Mr. Neely.”

Neely also agreed not to seek a seat on the Lathrop Manteca Fire District board for a period of at least four years and has a non-disparagement clause in the settlement agreement that precludes him from making any false or disparaging remarks in relation to the District, its employees, or its governing board, for the same length of time.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.