French Camp McKinley Fire Chief Fred Manding has been out on leave for unspecified reasons since July.
And it now appears that at least one Battalion Chief and a former Battalion Chief are now also out on paid administrative leave until further notice.
The rural fire protection district – whose area includes important San Joaquin County facilities like the San Joaquin General Hospital and the San Joaquin County Jail and Honor Farm – has had a number of closed session items on board agendas for the last several months that deal with contract firefighter and personnel issues.
Interim Fire Chief Mario McArn, who retired from the City of Stockton after 27 years of service before being hired to run the day-to-day operations of the district in Manding’s absence back in August, has been handling personnel matters with the board during closed session discussions.
McArn said last year that he made himself available to the board when former French Camp McKinley and Mountain House Fire Chief Paul Tualla left back in 2016, and that he was contacted by the board to fill-in when Manding went out on leave.
According to sources from within the fire district, one Battalion Chief has been on administrative leave for the last two months while another resigned his administrative position and was then placed on leave. No further details about what led to the personnel shakeup were available, and multiple phone calls to the district’s office were not returned.
Shakeups, however, haven’t been uncommon at French Camp McKinley in the last several years.
Former Board of Directors Chairman Mark Wulfing – who signed the district’s response to a San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury report that accused members of the board of interfering with day-to-day operations of the district and of violating the Brown Act – resigned from his position early last year and former Director Mark Vivian resigned back in 2017 before the district responded to the grand jury.
And discussions about the possibility of consolidation between French Camp McKinley and the Lathrop Manteca Fire District had begun just months before Manding went out on leave – with Lathrop Manteca formally requesting the financial documents of the neighboring district just over a week before his absence was announced.
A disagreement between the two agencies last year appears to have prompted the inquiry, and the issue centers on the sliver of property on Lathrop’s new northern border that was annexed into the City of Lathrop but was contested by French Camp McKinley who wanted to keep it within their boundaries. The spat ultimately ended up with French Camp keeping the parcel, what is now a Flying J Truck Stop on the north side of Roth Road, and creating a situation where for the first time in the City of Lathrop’s history the Lathrop Manteca Fire District doesn’t provide primary fire service to everything within the city limits.
Lathrop Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely has stated in the past that he was considering taking the matter back to the Local Agency Formation Commission, who handed down the decision that allowed French Camp McKinley to retain the parcel, for reassessment, and examining other options in making the district whole including pursuing a takeover.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.