By Frank Gayaldo
Despite 209 Times’ repeated attempts, Lathrop Manteca Fire Department (LMFD) current interim Fire Chief Joshua Capper so far refuses to answer this question:
Were the several thousand dollars spent on “facials, massages and alcoholic bar drinks” that former Fire Chief Gene Neely, Division Chief Larry Madoski, non-firefighter personnel and Mr. Capper himself personally partook in last February during a “mandatory training and strategic planning retreat” part of a legitimate “registered fire apprentice program”?
A 209 Times exclusive investigation has discovered Meritage Napa Hotel room stays between February 24-28, 2021, massages, facials, and numerous alcoholic bar drinks including Crown Royals, Maker’s Mark and Well Made Vodka, were initially placed on a “Cal Card” and then later paid via a “Cal-JAC” reimbursement. The entire bill exceeded $25,000.
A customer identified as “Mrs. Neely” along with a “Gene Neely” also incurred $396 worth of massages on February 21, 2021. It is unclear to 209 Times who or how this particular bill was paid. Another receipt in question shows that a $319 pair of sunglasses, a $132 cardigan sweater and $33 worth of SPF 50 sunscreen was purchased by LMFD permit clerk Karolina Ochoa on 2/26/21. The receipt was received by LMFD on 3/9/21. On 3/15/21, Karolina Ochoa submitted a $522 money order made payable to US Bank, which 209 Times believes likely went to reimburse Cal Card. Ms. Ochoa is no longer employed at LMFD.
According to Division Chief Larry Madoski, Nuemiller & Beardslee attorney Lisa Blanco Jimenez provided sexual harassment training during the February “retreat”. Yet on July 15, 2021, Ms Jimenez reimbursed Cal-JAC $974.02 from her personal checking account. Ms Jimenez, whom also currently serves as LMFD’s attorney, provided 209 Times a handwritten breakdown that showed that Cal JAC was reimbursed for two hotel nights, room service, one massage and one facial. 209 Times has asked Ms Jimenez, Interim Chief Capper and the LMFD Board of Directors if this payback should be interpreted as a demonstrated consciousness of guilt, but all have so far refused to answer.
209 Times asked Division Chief Larry Madoski if Cal-JAC receives any money from the government, and if his explanation that the funds were “unrestricted” meant the funds could be legally spent on non firefighters receiving massages, facials and alcoholic drinks.
“I do know that we have an internal committee that meets and we are drafting a “best practices“ …….