Modesto released one of its public works deputy directors from his job Monday and wont say why.
Jim Burch, deputy director for water, had worked for the city for about 15 months.
Burch said he was not given a reason for his termination. Human Resources Director Joe Lopez said that because Burch was a deputy director, he was an at-will employee, serving at the pleasure of his manager, and could be dismissed with or without cause. Lopez declined to comment further, saying it was a personnel matter.
Modesto hired Burch in June 2012 as the public works street manager. He was promoted to deputy director for water in February. His salary was $100,516. He was one of two deputy directors in public works, which has an operating budget of about $96 million and about 300 employees.
The president of the union that represents public works employees said he and other public works employees were stunned when they heard the news. Modesto City Employees Association President Ronnie Flood said Burch had good ideas and was an excellent manager and an asset for the city.
Burch said he was not aware of any complaints against him or problems with his work. Ive poured my heart and soul into this place, he said Monday.
This was Burchs third government job since 2010.
The previous two were in Oregon. He left his position as a public works supervisor for Oregon City in 2010 after a female public works employee filed a harassment lawsuit against the city, according to The Oregonian newspaper. The complaint was later amended to include the allegation that Burch had hacked into the employees personal email account.
Oregon City settled the lawsuit brought by the woman for $119,250.
Burch then went to work for the city of Gresham, Ore., as a transportation manager. But Gresham let Burch go in 2011 after prosecutors filed misdemeanor charges against him. He was accused of a computer crime and official misconduct based on the incident at Oregon City.
The Oregonian reported in January 2012 that a judge took the rare step of dismissing the charges against Burch in mid-trial, saying there was insufficient evidence for a jury to reach a verdict.
Dennis Turner, who recently retired as Modestos public works director, hired Burch.
Turner said in an August interview that Burch spoke openly about his experiences in Oregon City and Gresham. Turner said he did his due diligence before deciding to hire Burch by speaking to six to eight people who had worked with Burch. Turner said they gave strong endorsements of Burch.
Turner said he also briefed City Manager Greg Nyhoff about Burch.
Burch talked to his Modesto staff about Oregon when he started his job here.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2316.