Jesse Alba first was demoted as fire chief of the Waukesha Fire Department and then, a little more than two years later, was fired from the department outright.
Correspondingly, his salary first dropped from $110,000 as chief to $65,000 as a firefighter and to no income from the city's payroll.
In an effort to regain lost wages and related expenses, Alba has taken a new route in the Waukesha County Circuit Court system: suing the woman with whom he had an affair and who played a role in the Waukesha Police and Fire Commission's decisions against him.
Alba, who had risen through the ranks of the Waukesha Fire Department over the last 25-plus years, had sought to regain that position back after saying there wasn't "just cause" for his demotion in the first place. He was initially demoted after an initial investigation in 2013 revealed that Mary Jo Hoppe, a former part-time emergency medical services educator, told fire department employees Alba had made unwanted advances toward her.
Statements were relayed to an initial investigator who concluded Alba violated the city's anti-harassment policy, among other rules, leading to his demotion and subsequent firing. But other details also indicated that the relationship was consensual.
Lawsuit against Hoppe
Following his firing on March 3, Alba and his wife, Vickie, filed a defamation lawsuit on March 18 against Hoppe, the woman with whom Alba had a consensual sexual affair four years ago.
The suit hinges upon statements Hoppe reportedly made to co-workers that he had aggressively sought a relationship against her will, when other evidence, including personal emails, contradicted those statements. She also suggested that Alba demanded she resign when he became chief. Alba claimed to have made no such demand.
"He has been put through hell as a result of her lies," Attorney Douglas W. Rose said in an interview with Waukesha Now on Friday, March 25.
The Albas are seeking an award of statutory penalties, statutory attorney fees, compensatory damages for pain and suffering, punitive damages, all costs of this action and other relief as the court deems just and equitable under the circumstances.
Asked how much money Alba and his wife are seeking, Rose said: "It's impossible to quantify the damages that Mary Jo Hoppe has caused Jesse Alba. ... There's no dollar figure that comes close to what she has put him through."
When the PFC did not grant Alba his job back earlier this year after a judge in the circuit court and an appellate judge determined he was entitled to a second hearing, he and his team immediately said they would file another appeal in Waukesha County Circuit Court against the PFC. (Alba still plans on taking that route in the coming months to return as the fire chief in Waukesha.)
"We were optimistic the PFC would do the right thing and reinstate Jesse to fire chief," Rose said. "When that didn't happen we felt we had to do this because she is the person who caused all of this in the first place."
Rose wrote in one of the two defamation counts: "The statements made by Mrs. Hoppe were defamation per se because the statements defamed Mr. Alba by affecting his business, trade, profession or office."
In a second defamation count, Rose wrote that the statements defame and harmed "Mr. Alba's reputation so as to deter third persons from associating or dealing with Mr. and Mrs. Alba."
Rose said Hoppe of Pewaukee will be served the lawsuit and has 45 days to respond. A hearing is expected to be scheduled at a later date.
PFC case and decisions
The PFC, a five-person panel, determined Alba, then an assistant fire chief, had violated city and department rules in part for asking Hoppe to consider resigning on two occasions as a solution to get past the consensual sexual affair the two had between February 2012 and August 2012. The commission demoted him in 2013 and fired him altogether from the department earlier this month.
In its written decision, the PFC wrote that testimony showed Alba's "lack of integrity and professionalism, and his misuse of his position to intimidate and improperly pressure Hoppe to resign."
Alba said in the lawsuit and in statements that were made during the most recent disciplinary hearing that once the relationship ended he "found it difficult, but it never impacted" his ability to perform his duties at the fire department.
He also said he made resignation offers to Hoppe because of how difficult it was to see "someone struggling" after the two had ended the relationship. Rose confirmed a sexual relationship did in fact happen between Alba and Hoppe through emails from Hoppe to Alba depicting this struggle in getting over the affair and how teaching at the department was "painful" for her.
"I miss you already and cannot promise I can stay away," she wrote in one of the emails.
But before she resigned, Hoppe had told members of the fire department she did not share a romantic relationship with Alba and that Alba would make her resign once he was fire chief. After seeing the emails during last month's hearing, employees who had previously believed Hoppe said they realized she wasn't truthful with them.
Alba said he never threatened to terminate Hoppe if she didn't resign or that his requests were made in a threatening manner.
Hoppe did not appear at any of the hearings over the last three years, and she didn't show up after she was subpoenaed during the first hearing.
"The actions of Hoppe were malicious or in an intentional disregard of the rights of Mr. Alba and Mr. Alba's family," Rose wrote in the lawsuit.