Complaint filed against Waukesha fire chief Jesse Alba

Christopher Kuhagen
A complaint against Waukesha Fire Chief Jesse Alba was filed by the city of Waukesha.
Published on: 7/24/2013

A formal complaint has been filed against new Waukesha fire chief Jesse Alba, City Administrator Ed Henschel confirmed Wednesday afternoon.

Henschel said the complaint was sent to the Waukesha Police and Fire Commission Tuesday after Alba didn’t resign following an investigation that revealed alleged violations of city policy.

The investigation started in early June, less than two months after Alba was named fire chief, Henschel said.

Henschel said after the investigation was finished, he and Mayor Jeff Scrima met with Alba on July 3 and presented the investigator’s report. The investigation was conducted by an independent third party retained by the city.

“We listened to his side of the story,” Henschel said. “I didn’t know how he was going to react. I talked to him a couple times on resigning, but he has clearly stated he has no intention of doing that.

“But interestingly he has not denied the facts of the investigation, although he presented alternative facts supporting his position.”

During their meeting with Alba, Henschel and Scrima then asked for his resignation.

And they told Alba that if he did not resign they would file a complaint within five days. Once Alba did not resign, they prepared the complaint.

Henschel said the matter was brought to his attention by the city’s Human Resources Department shortly after Alba’s appointment.

“I was extremely surprised,” Henschel said about the complaint.

Alba could not be reached for comment relating to the complaint, but his attorney, Victor E. Plantinga of Rose/deJong Attorneys at Law in Milwaukee, provided a statement late Wednesday afternoon.

"Mr. Alba has received the statement of charges," Plantinga said. "He was aware of the investigation that led up to the filing of the statement of charges.

"Mr. Alba provided truthful information to the investigator and city officials that discredited the witness statements that are being used against him.

"Regrettably, none of that information is reflected in the investigation report or in the statement of charges. Mr. Alba looks forward to a hearing where he can present this evidence to the commission."

When asked if it was a fellow employee that issued the initial complaint, Henschel said “I can’t say that today. You’ll find out soon enough (in the complaint).”

Waukesha NOW has filed an open records request regarding the details in the complaint.

Henschel, who added the violations were not criminal, did say that the alleged employment violation occurred before Alba was named chief.

“It occurred earlier this year back to January, February or March,” Henschel said. “And it was employment related.”

Alba was hired in April after an extensive search to replace longtime Fire Chief Allen LaConte, who retired in March 2012.

Alba, who has been with the department since 1986, previously served as assistant chief. Before being named Waukesha’s 19th fire chief, Alba was deputy chief of training and emergency medical services for eight years.

He served as a firefighter/equipment operator/lieutenant with Waukesha from 1986-2000. Alba also had a four-year stint with the City of Brookfield as a deputy chief/shift commander from 2000-04.

Alba beat out close to 50 candidates who applied for the fire chief position when the application process began earlier this year. He is making about $110,000 annually as fire chief.

He was then one of four finalists who were interviewed in April by the Police and Fire Commission. In addition to Alba, the others were Waukesha’s Battalion Chief Joseph Hoffman, City of Kenosha Fire Department Battalion Chief Matthew Haerter and David Litton, fire chief in the Village of Bolingbrook, Ill.

Assistant Fire Chief Steve Howard, Waukesha’s interim fire chief after LaConte retired, also applied for the position and was one of the top six candidates who interviewed for the position.

Henschel said the violation did not come up during the interview process, which was done by the Waukesha Police and Fire Commission, a group of volunteer citizens. The finalists were narrowed by Illinois-based Voorhees Associates, the search firm that helped in the search.

When asked why the Police and Fire Commission did not find anything relating to the alleged violation during the interview process, Henschel replied, “One would think (it would have come up).” 

Henschel added, “Many fire departments, in general, are a very close-knit family. But nothing was said until too late. That’s really unfortunate.”

The Police and Fire Commission will hold a meeting, Henschel said, between 10 and 30 days after the complaint was filed. It will be up to the commission to decide Alba’s future with the department.

“Per state statute the Police and Fire Commission will determine the fate of Mr. Alba,” Scrima said. “And we are extremely saddened regarding this situation.”