Morro Bay fire captain fired after filing complaint against chief

Morro Bay Fire Captain Todd Gailey rescuing a man from Morro Rock in 2016

Less than a half-year after filing a complaint against his chief, a Morro Bay fire captain and former firefighter of the year was fired from the city’s fire department. [KSBY]

Todd Gailey, who filed harassment paperwork against Morro Bay Fire Chief Steve Knuckles last July, said his termination process all came to a head after he submitted the complaint against Knuckles. The chief, who was cleared of any wrongdoing by the city following the complaint, cited several reasons for firing Gailey, including the fire captain’s cavalier attitude toward safety procedures.

Knuckles fired Gailey on Dec. 4, 2018. Gailey, who was both a fire captain and paramedic, is appealing his termination.

Gailey’s tenure with the fire department included Morro Rock rescue operations for which he garnered praise, and in at least one case, criticism from Knuckles.

In 2016, Gailey rescued a Fresno man who climbed on top of Morro Rock to digitally propose to his girlfriend. The man got stuck on the way down, and Gailey grabbed him from the rock after being lowered from a CHP helicopter. Officials published video of the rescue.

The following year, Gailey hiked Morro Rock to retrieve a battery from a drone that crash landed. Knuckles cited the incident as an example of Gailey not following safety procedures.

Gailey said he did follow safety procedures and that he coordinated city training for Morro Rock rescues.

Also in 2017, Gailey directed the rescue of a seagull that became entangled in power lines. The seagull rescue, too, was cited by Knuckles in his decision to fire Gailey.

Knuckles alleges Gailey placed a ladder truck dangerously close to power lines during the seagull rescue.

“The world saw me risk my life by being lowered out of a helicopter on Morro Rock and saving someone’s life and I got an award and all that,” Gailey said. “But now rescue a seagull from a residential power drop and I get fired?”

I don’t think that’s worthy of terminating any employee, Gailey said.

Gailey worked for the Morro Bay Fire Department for 16 years. In 2017, Gailey received $170,647 in total pay and benefits, according to Transparent California.

On Tuesday night, Gailey spoke during public comment at the Morro Bay City Council meeting and said he wants his job back.

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