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Waukesha Fire Chief Jesse Alba suspended, Police and Fire Commission rules

Disciplinary hearing scheduled for Sept. 12

Aug. 21, 2013

City of Waukesha Fire Chief Jesse Alba, accused of sexually harassing a fire department employee, has been suspended with pay, effective immediately.

The decision was made Wednesday night by the Waukesha Police and Fire Commission after it went into closed session at City Hall.

A final disciplinary hearing that will determine whether to retain Alba is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 12 at City Hall.

City Administrator Ed Henschel said it will resemble a court setting with the four-member Police and Fire Commission acting as the "jury." 

At that time, the city will present its side, while Alba's attorney, Victor E. Plantinga, will present his client's side.

"We're glad we have a hearing date that's so close to resolve this," said Plantinga after the PFC made their decision.

Alba was present Wednesday night but did not speak. 

A recently revealed independent investigation alleges that Alba violated the city’s anti-harassment policy and other city rules.

It alleged that he asked on two separate occasions that a part-time fire department female employee resign from her position after he developed a romantic attraction to her, the complaint said.

The employee has since resigned.

Mayor Jeff Scrima had previously asked that Alba resign after the investigation was complete. Alba refused.

The alleged violations are not criminal.

Alba's attorney, however, said the entire story has not been told through the complaint.

"We do not believe the city has provided accurate information pertaining to the nature of the relationship between the complainant and Chief Alba," Plantinga said in a statement released after the hearing Wednesday. "We believe the evidence will establish that prior to Chief Alba being promoted to chief, he did engage in (a) consensual sexual relationship with the complainant that lasted for many months. This relationship never occurred on duty. This relationship also ended before the process for hiring a chief took place. 

"While Chief Alba regrets the decision he made in his personal life, it is unfortunate that the decision must impact Chief Alba professionally. We look forward to presenting this evidence and questioning the credibility of witnesses whom the city is relying on to bring these charges."

Henschel has said based on the allegations in the complaint, "I determined there were clear violations of city policy, department rules and regulations and it called into question Mr. Alba’s ability to make sound management decisions and to make good judgment as a leader of a large municipal (department).”

Before the PFC went into closed session Wednesday, the City of Waukesha’s attorney stated why Alba should be put on administrative leave, something Henschel said he would have done immediately.

Plantinga also stated his case saying that the allegations took place before Alba was chief.  

"There have been no violations of city rules that they are stating," Plantinga said.

Henschel said the investigation has caused low morale within the department and that Alba's behavior while chief and before becoming chief in April warrant a suspension. 

But Plantinga accused the city of creating this low morale by making statements to the press. He said Alba has maintained his responsibilities while under investigation.

“He has continued performing his job responsibilities,” Plantinga said. “If there’s low morale it was created by Mr. Henschel that undermines his ability to lead the department.” 

Henschel said after the meeting that he has talked with fire department employees on how the investigation has impacted the WFD.

Alba started with the department in 1986, while working his way up the ranks. He replaced longtime chief Allen LaConte, who retired in March 2012, just four months ago.

The search cost the city more than $16,000. Henschel said that hiring the investigator to look into the allegations cost the city "several thousand dollars" and now hiring an attorney to represent the city on this matter has also cost another "several thousand dollars."

Alba makes about $110,000 annually as fire chief.

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