Montclair Complaint Earns Upland Fire Chief Paid Leave

In response to a complaint emanating out of Montclair, Upland Fire Chief Paul Segalla was placed on administrative leave early this week.
Relieving Segalla of command was one of the first executive decisions exercised by Martin Thouvenell, who was brought in to serve in the capacity of interim city manager in Upland in the wake of former city manager Rod Butler’s sacking on July 27.
In January 2014, Upland and Montclair merged their fire department management staffs. That consolidation, intended to minimize costs for both of the adjoining cities on San Bernardino County’s west end, entailed the elimination of the Montclair fire chief’s position, which at that point was unfilled, and the ascendancy of then-Upland fire chief Rick Mayhew into the position of fire chief in both cities. That arrangement was touted as a two-year pilot program to provide both cities with an opportunity to test the feasibility of merging the entirety of their fire department operations, 73,732-population Upland, employs 36 fulltime firefighters staged out of four fire stations and 36,664-poulation Montclair, fields 24 firefighters operating out of two fire stations, Upland is covering 67 percent of the cost of employing the fire chief and the fire marshal, with Montclair picking up 33 percent of those salaries. The merger also entailed both cities splitting the cost of providing battalion commanders sufficient to cover each station in both cities, augmented by a central administrative staff consisting of an executive assistant, a clerk and secretary.
The fire chief remains, technically, an employee of the City of Upland, subject to Upland’s hiring, firing, promotional and disciplinary policy, discretion and authority, meaning the fire chief is directly answerable to the Upland city manager. The Montclair city manager is empowered to provide input with regard to the fire chief’s performance, discipline, wages and benefits but has no direct control over the fire chief.
Mayhew, whose salary had been bumped up when he accepted the assignment of overseeing fire protection operations in Upland’s neighboring city in addition to the one he already had, retired in July 2015, but not before qualifying, by virtue of his increased salary for 15 months, for an enhanced pension.
Segalla, who had been a fire lieutenant in Aurora, Illinois and a firefighter and deputy chief with the Downers Grove Fire Department in Illinois, fire captain with the Berkeley Fire Department and previously was fire chief in Lockpart Township, Illinois before being hired as fire chief with West Covina in 2008, on February 13, 2013 was hired as fire chief with the Chino Valley Fire District, which serves the cities of Chino and Chino Hills. In that capacity he was provided with a three-year contract specifying a $188,328 annual salary. On January 24, 2013, however, Segalla was placed on administrative leave.
According to Chino Valley’s board president at that time, John DeMonaco, the suspension was made because the board was undertaking an “assessment of the compatibility of his management style with the goals of the district.”
Apparently, the board’s members were unable to collectively resolve the administrative and management differences they had with Segalla and on March 4, 2014 Segalla was removed from the district payroll, an indication that there were unfavorable issues in the evaluation that the district was willing to cite in justifying the contract termination.
The district issued a curt press release, which offered little in the way of an explanation as to the reason for his sacking.
“Chief Segalla has informed the board that he is now desirous of seeking a new position outside of the district,” that press release said. “While it has been a pleasure working with him, on behalf of the board of directors we wish Chief Segalla future professional success and thank him for his dedicated service to the district.”
Segalla was able to land on his feet twenty months later when he wangled the chief’s job in Upland in November 2015. An element favorable to his hiring was he was willing to accept an annual salary of $161,196 and benefits of $71,692 for a total compensation package of $232,888, which was roughly $25,000 less than Mayhew was receiving at the time of his retirement.
Indications are that at this point someone in the City of Montclair does not feel Segalla is earning his keep, though taxpayers there are responsible for just one-third of what he is paid.
On Monday, August 8, Segalla was in attendance at the Upland City Council meeting, seated in the front row of the spectators section of the council chambers, which by custom is reserved for high ranking city staff. There was no obvious indication of what the Sentinel learned the following morning, which was that Segalla had been placed on administrative leave the previous day.
No official statement was provided and inquiries were met with a stony response that the matter was a personnel issue about which no information could be provided.
An informed source at City Hall, however, did vouchsafe a statement to the Sentinel that the reason for Segalla being placed on leave originated with “a complaint from Montclair. It came from outside the city. This had nothing to do with Marty [Thouvenell] getting here as the interim city manager. That was just a coincidence. I can say that this is not a matter of the misuse of equipment or personnel or any benefit to Paul personally. It is a matter of what might be seen as good judgment not being used in another city. I shouldn’t say any more than that.”
Contacted by the Sentinel on August 9, Montclair City Manager Ed Starr told the Sentinel he could not make any statement because, “Upland has just opened an internal affairs investigation.”
Asked if Segalla had engaged in any activity or overseen some action in Montclair deemed to be inappropriate, Starr said, “That is for Upland to determine.”
Segalla is not directly answerable to him, Starr said. “He is not a Montclair employee. We pay Upland for his service but his status is that of an Upland employee.”

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