- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

HAYWARD, Calif. (AP) - The Hayward fire chief was suspended over behavioral issues that included drinking while on call and fighting with a subordinate, but he was allowed to keep his job after agreeing to various conditions, city officials said Tuesday.

A city investigation led to the suspension without pay of Fire Chief Garrett Contreras, 41, from June 13 to July 12 and a reduction of his $186,000 salary by about 9 percent, according to documents obtained by the Oakland Tribune.

“The sustained allegations from the recent investigation clearly warrant your removal as chief,” Hayward City Manager Fran David wrote in a June 4 letter to Contreras. “Your failure of leadership has embarrassed the city and your department.”

But City Manager Fran David allowed him to keep his job after Contreras agreed to conditions that included not drinking at city functions or while on-call and not driving a city vehicle within eight hours of having a drink.

Assistant City Manager Kelly McAdoo said the decision to keep Contreras, a 20-year veteran of the department and oversees 118 firefighters and a $35 million budget, was in part due to all the work he has done to modernize it.

“He’s done a lot of great things as fire chief and is very passionate about continuing to serve the community,” McAdoo said.

Contreras brought in over $1 million in funding for equipment and helped opened up a health clinic at one of the fire stations, she said.

In March 2014, Contreras “initiated a physical fight” with a subordinate firefighter, the probe found. Later that evening, Contreras drank three bourbons in one hour and 20 minutes at a going-away party while he was the on-call commander. He did not immediately answer dispatchers’ calls that evening after firefighters were sent to a fire that displaced 12 residents, the investigation concluded.

“There were no public safety ramifications from him not responding to that particular incident,” McAdoo said.

Contreras said he is embarrassed but admits to the mistakes.

“I screwed up. I’ve got to own this,” he said. “I’m very embarrassed, but I’m way better as a result of having gone through this.”

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Information from: San Mateo County Times, https://www.sanmateotimes.com


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