Woman doesn't show at Alba's disciplinary hearing

Todd Ponath
Jesse Alba and his wife, Vickie, listen as his attorney speaks to the media following a disciplinary hearing Sept. 25 at City Hall. Alba, who became fire chief earlier this year, has been on paid administrative leave since Aug. 21 after being accused of violating the city’s anti-harassment policy and other city rules.
Published on: 10/2/2013

Waukesha Fire Chief Jesse Alba's fate within the department is still to be determined.

After more than five hours of testimony three weeks ago, Alba's attorney, Victor E. Plantinga, was hoping to bring the woman the city alleges Alba sexually harassed to the stand at the next disciplinary hearing.

However, the woman, a former part-time fire department employee, did not show up last week after Plantinga was unable to serve her. The disciplinary hearing, as a result, continued Sept. 25 without her.

Alba, who was put on paid administrative leave by the Police and Fire Commission Aug. 21, was the only person who testified last week at City Hall.

The fire chief is accused of violating the city's anti-harassment policy among other city rules. He said at the Sept. 12 hearing he asked the part-time employee to consider resigning on two occasions as a solution to the difficulties both were having in getting past the affair they had last year.

Alba said he doesn't view this as a violation because it was a personal matter.

"I believe I follow the rules of conduct every day when I'm at work," Alba said.

Alba spoke Sept. 25 after the initial statement of charges filed by Mayor Jeff Scrima in July was amended to include adultery charges, a Class 1 Felony in Wisconsin. Alba admitted to having an affair with the woman, who worked as an emergency medical services educator.

"I was very surprised by the amended charges," Alba said.

Plantinga added, "They introduced additional charges that frankly I didn't expect. I rather doubt the City of Waukesha will be implementing this as far as other employees."

The woman resigned shortly after Alba was named chief this spring. Other co-workers testified Sept. 12 and said that morale is low within the department, that there's a loss of respect for Alba and that some employees would leave if Alba remained chief.

But Plantinga said the part-time employee began sharing information with department members "that weren't true and to shed her in a better light and cast a darker shadow over Alba."

According to an initial investigation done by an outside investigator, the woman, who worked at the fire station three days a month, said she did not have a sexual relationship with Alba.

She was also reluctant to share information about her involvement with Alba, the investigation adds.

When asked after the hearing if the woman not testifying will hurt Alba's chances, Plantinga said he didn't think so.

"The city's relying on the statements she made that I think we've proven are untrue," Plantinga said. "I don't think necessarily it will hurt us."

The attorneys from both sides are expected to submit their findings and determinations to the PFC by Wednesday and all parties are scheduled to reconvene at 1 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

Closing statements will follow and the PFC will deliberate in closed session.

It's possible the PFC might not make its determination at that time, City Attorney Curt Meitz said.

"There's no guarantee they'll make an announcement," Meitz said.

While next week will be the fourth time the PFC will meet with Alba and his attorneys, the disciplinary process is similar to what Meitz has been a part of in the past.

"You have to create a solid record, because you never want to make a snap decision on any of this," said Meitz, who oversaw a disciplinary matter for the Police and Fire Commission in the City of Brookfield that lasted six weeks and included five different sessions of five-hour testimony.

Plantinga, meanwhile, said the length of the hearing process is to be expected.

"We'd like a resolution, but we knew this would be a long process," said, Plantinga last week as Alba and his wife stood beside him outside the Common Council Chambers.

After a ruling is made by the four-member PFC, an appeal could still be made by either side, which would go to Circuit Court, Meitz said.

When asked if he expects an appeal, Meitz wasn't sure.

"I don't know," he said. "It all depends on whatever the determination may be."