Waukesha fire chief Jesse Alba's disciplinary hearing ends

Todd Ponath
Waukesha Fire Chief Jesse Alba answers questions from one of his attorneys during a hearing at City Hall in Waukesha Sept. 25. The chief is accused of violating the city's anti-harassment policy.
Published on: 10/8/2013

With his future as the Waukesha fire chief still uncertain, Jesse Alba spoke to the media for the first time since he has been accused of sexual harassment.

"First and foremost I want to apologize to my wife, children, family, Waukesha Fire Department members and my friends," Alba said in a prepared statement. "I will do everything I can to make up for what you have had to endure in dealing with this situation."

Alba's statement came Tuesday afternoon at City Hall following the conclusion of the fourth disciplinary hearing in the last month and a half. During this time, emotional testimonies have been given and closing statements have been issued.

Now, the Police and Fire Commission must make a decision.

Will Alba, accused by the city of violating its anti-harassment policy, be terminated? Will he be suspended or demoted?

Or will he retain his position?

The four-member PFC will decide Alba's future at the Waukesha Fire Department in the coming days. The PFC, however, did not give a date as to when it will make its decision.

After closing statements were given Tuesday by Alba's attorney, Victor E. Plantinga and the city's attorney, Stan Riffle, the PFC went into closed session to deliberate the evidence and the findings that have been submitted to them.

At the PFC's request, the attorneys agreed to waive the typical three-day period allowed for them to make a determination.

"They will make every effort to expedite the matter, while making an objective determination," said attorney Curt Meitz, who is representing the PFC.

Alba has been on paid administrative leave since Aug. 21 after the city filed a statement of charges against the fire chief, citing many city and fire department rule violations after he asked a part-time WFD employee to resign due to his infatuation with her.

But Alba later revealed that he had a consensual sexual relationship with the woman and that by asking her to resign it provided a solution to the difficulties both were having in getting over the affair.

"How on Earth could he come to the conclusion that the situation is better?" Riffle said during his rebuttal Tuesday. "The only evidence that we need here is the fact that Alba utilized his position to coerce a valued employee to quit. The fact that he had an intimate sexual relationship makes it worse. It doesn't make it better. He couldn't stand being in a room with her so he was going to get rid of her.

"It was he alone who drove her out,"

Riffle said Alba violated 14 rules and should be terminated.

Alba's attorney said the former female employee, who could not be tracked down to testify during any of the hearings, was not truthful during the investigation. She told the investigator that there was not a sexual relationship between her and Alba.

"She didn't want to come forward," Plantinga said. "She was untruthful to co-workers, her friends, HR and the investigator. We can see how the investigation took the path that it did based on the information. This cast the investigation in a different light."

Riffle added: "There's been a lot of attack (against the woman). I realize why she wasn't here. (Alba's) here because he put himself in that position. We are (here) because of his actions that can't be tolerated in the workplace."

Alba, who has given testimony on his alleged affair with the woman, spoke to the media for the first time after Tuesday's disciplinary hearing issuing an apology to those affected.

With his wife, Vickie, who has supported him throughout this process, by his side, Alba said he has intentionally avoided responding to the "myriad of mistruths and rumors that have been conveyed, both inside and outside of the hearings, and contributing to the media circus that has been created by members of the city leadership who decided not to act in a similarly professional manner.

"By adhering to the confidentiality directives I was given during the investigation and avoiding the temptation to 'strike back' at comments that have been made during the hearings, and in the media, I believe I have maintained my integrity in dealing with these allegations," Alba said.

Plantinga said much of this case has been "hearsay" from what the woman provided others and that the investigation wasn't "thorough."

In regard to the amended charge of adultery, Plantinga added "I'm quite confident that neither the city or the PFC has ever applied that (to an employee). What type of precedent are you setting?"

Plantinga, who said Alba has virtually a clean record during his career, added that there are many decisions the PFC can make.

"I'm confident you'll reach a fair decision," he said.

Alba, who started with the department in 1986 and was named chief in the spring, hopes the decision is in his favor.

"It is my goal to return to work as chief of the City of Waukesha Fire Department and to continue serving this great community as I have in the past," Alba said. "And now that the commission has heard the facts of this case, and not just hearsay and rumors, I have every confidence that they will follow their administrative procedures in ruling on these allegations and I will be allowed to resume doing just that."