Alameda’s new fire chief Ed Rodriguez’s first
day on the job is Nov. 13.

Alameda City Manager Jill Keimach on Tuesday named Ed Rodriguez as the city’s next fire chief. Rodriguez previously headed the Salinas Fire Department and replaces Alameda Fire Chief Doug Long, who retired last month. But controversial over the selection process was already roiling at Alameda City Hall even before the choice was made to tab an outsider as head of the fire department.

In an email sent Friday by one of the final candidates for the position, he questioned Keimach’s competence for identifying a new chief.

Domenick Weaver, a former Alameda Firefighters Union president, removed himself from consideration last Friday after becoming frustrated by Keimach’s uncertainty over the pick, while attacking her character. Weaver had received support from the firefighters union, some city officials and Assemblymember Rob Bonta.

“Sometimes indecision makes decisions for you,” wrote Weaver. “That is the case for you in this matter. I will always do my best for the Alameda Fire Department, the City of Alameda and our wonderful island community. But, as a man of principle, integrity and honesty, I can clearly see that I would not be able to work closely with someone drawing such questions surrounding their character.”

“Never before have I been witness to a more unprofessional selection process in the City than the one you are currently conducting to fill an executive management team and critical public safety position,” he continued. Weaver, meanwhile, praised the recruiting firm, which cost the city $75,000, and added, their performance only broke down due to Keimach’s lack of direction with interview dates constantly missed or abruptly changed, said Weaver.

He also claimed Keimach indicated she would not name him acting chief because doing so would give him an “unfair advantage in the process.” Instead, Keimach appointed Alameda Deputy Fire Chief Ricci Zombeck, once a candidate for the open fire chief position, and whom Weaver says subsequently received an interview after being named acting chief.

Keimach responded to Weaver’s criticism in a letter last week to him by defending the process and noting other candidates for the position had sent the city “notes of appreciation” for being considered for the post.

“To be clear, my job as City Manager is to make decisions that I believe are in the best interests of the City of Alameda–both in terms of good governance and the needs of our community. Hiring decisions, including the selection of key leadership personnel, are part of my job,” Keimach wrote to Weaver.

“In my three decades in city management I have learned when quick action and decisions are necessary, and also when it is more prudent and responsible to take the necessary time to make the best decision possible in the best interest of the community,” Keimach wrote. “The most important decisions any City Manager makes is the appointment of key personnel and what is most important is following the right process and selection.”

Rodriguez served as Salinas fire chief starting in 2012. Prior to that, he served three years as deputy fire chief in Stockton.

But Rodriguez’s first assignment may be figuring out how to navigate the heated dispute between the fire department’s union leadership and Keimach. In addition, part of the union’s support for Weaver revolved around an insistence that recent history suggests hiring a fire chief from outside Alameda Fire’s ranks has not proven successful.