Hayward Fire Chief Suspended For Drinking Then Driving City Vehicles

Hayward's fire chief nearly lost his job after an investigation revealed more than one instance of drinking and then operating city equipment, according to documents released Tuesday.

City Manager Fran David ultimately allowed Fire Chief Garrett Contreras to remain at his post under strict conditions requiring him to clean up his act and take a pay cut, according to a letter from David to the chief.

The disciplinary letter, dated June 11, said the city investigation found that Contreras had driven a city vehicle while under the influence of alcohol on at least four occasions in March, April, July and September 2014.

On March 6, 2014, he drank while he was the on-call commander and failed to respond to a significant fire during his shift, not answering numerous calls for assistance. That same day, he got into a fight with a subordinate, according to the letter. That September, he attended the Stonebrae Golf Tournament. After several drinks, he had a loud and inappropriate conversation with another attendee, noticed by several guests.

"This conduct is not what I expect from a chief," David wrote. "Your failure of leadership has embarrassed the city and your department and violates the very command and control structure on which your operations depend."

The incidents were not the first time David had disciplined the chief, she said, as he had already been warned a year prior not to intimidate, bully or threaten employees.

With his job on the line, David gave Contreras one last chance. He agreed to a one-month suspension without pay from June 13 to July 12. He returned with a pay cut and granted the city manager the power to terminate him immediately.

In addition, he can only drive city vehicles while on duty, can't drink in uniform or while at any city or union function, can't drink while on call, and can't drive a city vehicle within eight hours after drinking. He also agreed to attend counseling, according to the city manager's office.

While his conduct warranted his termination, his honesty during the investigation, accepting responsibility and improved job performance earned lenience from David, according to the letter. David herself selected Contreras for the chief's job in 2012. He has served with the department since 1996, becoming president of the firefighters' union from 2000-2008, a fire captain in 2004, battalion chief in 2008 and deputy chief in 2010, according to his LinkedIn profile.

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