Wheeler rebuts Branch attorney filing
NOTE: To review a copy of the memorandum of points and authorities, go to the bottom of this story.
Two previous articles addressed Janet Thew’s and Bill Branch’s incompatibility complaint sent to the attorney general and a threatening letter sent to Dave Wheeler by their attorney, who agreed to take the case without charge.
Wheeler was out of the country at the time and unable to address the issue. He now responds to questions about the complaint filed on Oct. 16, which seeks permission from the attorney general to file a quo warranto lawsuit against him for allegedly holding incompatible offices of fire chief and councilmember.
Q: Do you think the fire chief and council position are incompatible?
A: “No. Just because those filing the application say it’s true doesn’t mean it’s true. They are just plain reaching. The AG protects me from frivolous lawsuits, but they are not a decision-making body. They have no enforcement powers nor can they make a decision. They can render an opinion on whether or not the offices ‘may’ be incompatible. They could allow a lawsuit.”
Q: The suit states the Town of Loomis pays the fire district money and uses entries in the town’s check ledger as evidence. Is that true?
A: “No. The Loomis Fire District receives no town money. Those are just pass-through fees the town collects for the fire district for building fees. They do that as a courtesy for town residents because the firehouse isn’t always staffed. The money does not belong to the town. It’s like when people pay their income taxes to the State Franchise Tax Board. That money does not belong to them, they only collect it for the state.”
Q: The complaint states a fire protection district may charge a municipality fees to offset service costs. Is that true for Loomis?
A: No. We don’t provide services to the town itself. Only the members of the fire district.”
Q: The complaint states the fire chief position is a public office, do you agree?
A: “The position of Loomis Fire Protection District chief is not a public office. I’m not an elected board member of the fire district, only an employee. I do not set policy or make policy decisions. I only have the power the board gives me.”
Q: The Memorandum of Points and Authorities in the complaint includes a list of powers and duties of a fire chief. Do those apply to you?”
A: The enforcement of city building standards doesn’t. Loomis Fire doesn’t do that. I don’t have the power to issue citations either. And the issuance of orders to correct a fire hazard can be appealed to the fire board.”
Q: Does the fire chief set public policy?
“No. It’s the fire board that makes public policy. The board is made up of duly elected members. There is nothing that the town can pass that affects the fire district. We both have to abide by state fire laws. The fire district can’t require the town to do anything. They are completely separate, not connected.”
Q: In the complaint, it states the approval of structure height is subject to the fire chief’s approval. Is that true?
A: “Yes, only because the fire district has to ensure they have a ladder high enough to reach the top of the building. It’s not subjective.”
Q: How long do you plan to stay in the fire chief job?
A: “When it’s time for me to leave the fire district, it will be on my terms and not because of bullying.”
Q: What do you mean by “bullying?”
“Those behind this suit have used classic bullying tactics to make me give up my council seat. They’ve threatened me. They’ve used intimidation, spread false rumors and are using media. I will not be a victim of bullying.”
Q: Can you give some examples of this?
A: “They started small before the election trying to get me not to run. On Election Day, they planted a Sacramento media story. In November, they tried to intimidate me from being seated on the council. They’ve threatened me and they’ve threatened the fire district. They’ve taken things out of context to support their intimidation and bullying.”