Government / Politics

Hollister fire chief under investigation, placed on leave

Details of complaint are not known as city manager investigates "personnel matter"

Hollister Fire Chief Michael O'Connor is under investigation and has been placed on administrative leave by City Manager William Avera, who confirmed the action but would not divulge the reasons for it, citing personnel rules. Division Chief Leo Alvarez is in charge of the fire department while the investigation is being conducted.

"I'm kind of disappointed that it got out," Avera said Monday evening, noting that it was first reported by television channel KSBW. "We just don't talk about it. I understand he's a public official, but that doesn't necessarily mean everything you do is public. There are personnel rules and regulations and people have rights. We have other disciplinary actions that take place on a regular basis, but that doesn't mean it gets out to the public. We could never get people to work for us if that were the case."

Mayor Ignacio Velasquez said the council does not know the details of O'Connor's leave, as he reports directly to the city manager and not the city council.

"An accusation was made and (Avera) has to have someone investigate it," Velasquez said. "We don't know the truth yet." The mayor said he has "no idea" what accusation was levied against O'Connor but also noted that the issue is a personnel matter that he guessed could take "a few weeks to sort out."

Asked how he felt O'Connor was doing as fire chief, Velasquez said, "I think he's done a good job. Like everyone else, I want to know if there's an issue there. He's done a good job and put together a good team. Hopefully, we'll find out that there's nothing wrong in this case."

O'Connor, a longtime Hollister firefighter, was sworn in as fire chief in January 2014 after nine months as the interim chief.

For KSBW's report on the investigation, click here.

Adam Breen

Adam Breen has been a San Benito County resident since 1980 and graduated from Sacred Heart School and San Benito High School before earning a bachelor's degree from California State University, Fresno. A father of two sons, Adam has taught newspaper, English and yearbook at SBHS for the past decade, after six years as a magazine editor for Santa Clara University. He previously was editor of the Hollister Free Lance and content director for BenitoLink.