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Former Morro Bay Fire captain fighting to get his job back

A former Morro Bay Fire captain is fighting to get his job back after being fired, he says, for rescuing a seagull tangled in some power lines.

“I was literally, was shocked,” said former Morro Bay Fire Captain/Paramedic Todd Gailey. “I honestly could not believe it.”

Gailey was let go from Morro Bay Fire Department on Dec. 4, 2018.

“The one worthy of termination stated was directing my crew to rescue a seagull that was stuck hanging upside down from a residential power drop,” Gailey explained.

That happened in May.

In a memorandum sent to the city and Gailey, Chief Steve Knuckles said Gailey was terminated for a number of reasons, including his cavalier attitude toward safety procedures.

In the seagull rescue incident, Knuckles said the captain placed the ladder truck dangerously close to power lines.

“The world’s saw me risk my life by being lowered out of a helicopter in Morro Rock and saving someone’s life and got an award and all that from that, great recognition but now rescue a seagull from a residential power drop and I get fired?” Gailey questioned. “I don’t think that’s worthy of terminating any employee.”

In the same document, Knuckles referenced another incident in which he said Gailey refused to follow department policy. In 2017, Gailey hiked Morro Rock to get a drone battery that crash landed. The chief said he did not do it safely.

However, Gailey says he coordinates the training on Morro Rock.

“I presented photos to the city saying here’s photos of us in training two months earlier going all the way up wearing the exact same gear that I had going 80 feet up,” Gailey said.

Gailey filed a complaint in July.

“All of this, timeframe-wise came to a head right after I had also just finished recently filing harassment paperwork against my fire chief,” Gailey added.

The city launched an investigation but found the chief didn’t do anything wrong.

“I definitely feel like I got singled out and I’m getting punished unjustly,” Gailey explained.

During his 16 years with the department, Gailey received numerous awards, including Firefighter of the Year.

Photo courtesy Todd Gailey

“I just don’t think this is worth the city spending thousands of dollars to terminate an employee with my work history for this incident,” Gailey concluded.

City Manager Scott Collins said he was not able to comment specifically on the case but did say that Gailey filed an appeal and that it’s pending.

KSBY News reached out to Fire Chief Steve Knuckles for comment but has not yet heard back.

Gailey and his brother spoke during public comment at the Morro Bay City Council meeting Tuesday night.

He said wrong decisions were made and he wants his job back. He said he “wants an opportunity to continue to serve.”

Alexa Bertola

Alexa Bertola

Alexa Bertola has been a Multimedia Journalist at KSBY for more than two years. She's a general assignment reporter. Story idea? Email her: abertola@ksby.com
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