Court papers shed some light on the mysterious departure of Stanislaus Consolidated fire chief

gstapley@modbee.comJanuary 4, 2014 

DN basket deliveries

Steve Mayotte, former Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District chief, is seen here in 2011.

DEBBIE NODA — dnoda@modbee.com

  • Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District timeline

    1995 – Fire departments in Riverbank, Empire, Waterford, Hickman and La Grange merge to cover 217 square miles. Steve Mayotte joins the new district as a fire engineer and begins working up the ranks.

    1998 – Civil grand jurors criticize the district for selling surplus vehicles to friends without asking for bids.

    2004 – Landowners raise yearly home assessments from as little as $23 to $213 to rescue the district from financial meltdown (by 2014, most homes pay $262).

    2006 – After a year as interim leader, Steve Mayotte is promoted to chief. The district pays $900,000 to settle a five-year wrongful termination lawsuit brought by former deputy chief Dan Reeves.

    2010 – Saying their complaints are ignored, 81 percent of firefighters’ union members give Mayotte a vote of no confidence.

    2012 – After three former and current employees sue the district, all complaining about Mayotte, the fire board launches its final yearlong investigation.

    2013 – The board suspends Mayotte for two months without pay, demotes him to battalion chief and allows him to retire after nine months of administrative leave. He sues, saying he wasn’t given a chance to appeal.

— Former Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Chief Steve Mayotte was suspended and demoted for “not less than 20 infractions, some of a grave nature,” and spent nearly nine months on paid administrative leave before retiring in mid-December, according to court papers in four lawsuits against the district, one of them brought by Mayotte.

The other three were filed by current or former employees accusing Mayotte of sexual harassment, sexual favoritism, age discrimination and firing a woman who refused his command to alter documents and who would not wear an apron and cook for him as his “second wife,” court papers say.

The lawsuits say Mayotte used sexual vulgarities to belittle a worker, pestered underlings with sexual fantasies, screamed profanities at a female employee, bullied an older firefighter, shredded documents, leaked confidential information and lied to fire board members.

Mayotte had “a history of discipline which he conveniently kept out of his personnel file – one of the many infractions supporting the discipline,” reads one briefing filed by the fire board’s attorney.

The former chief did not return calls placed to his Turlock home.

He turned 50 a week before retiring but had not worked at the district since being placed on administrative leave in early February, during which time he collected about $75,000.

Mayotte’s lawsuit says he was not afforded due process. He wants a judge to block the demotion, which reduced his retirement pay.

Details have been scant since he ceased working in February. The fire board’s attorney refused most of The Modesto Bee’s request for information under the California Public Records Act, saying the agency’s communication with lawyers is confidential and preserving its ability to defend lawsuits outweighs the public’s right to know what’s going on.

Also, attorneys on both sides of Mayotte’s lawsuit asked to hide from public view the fire board’s investigations of Mayotte and other relevant documents, and Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Hurl Johnson agreed in November to seal the records.

But documents not sealed in the four lawsuits shed light on circumstances surrounding the departure of Mayotte, whose firefighters had stung him with a vote of no confidence in 2010, five years after he took over the department.

Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District covers Riverbank, where its headquarters are located, as well as Waterford, south Modesto’s Beard Industrial District, Empire, Hickman and La Grange. It also manages the Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District and Oakdale Fire Department, although that city recently backed away from a proposed merger with Stanislaus Consolidated Fire.

The agency, a product of a 1995 merger of several small departments, recently has been under the leadership of interim Fire Chief Brian Kelly. The fire board has met in closed session in recent weeks to discuss recruitment and a Dec. 9 agenda cited “selection of final candidate for district fire chief,” but no announcement has been made.

A court hearing in Mayotte’s lawsuit is scheduled for next week, while trial dates for the other three are set for June and July.


Court documents

Smith vs. Stanislaus Consolidated

Condit vs. Stanislaus Consolidated

Williams vs. Stanislaus Consolidated

Mayotte vs. Stanislaus Consolidated

http://media.modbee.com/smedia/2014/01/04/21/54/Bdekk.So.11.pdf#storylink=relast

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or (209) 578-2390. Bee staff writer Kevin Valine contributed to this report.

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