El Dorado Hills fire chief announces retirement weeks after being named in lawsuit

Roberts has been with the department for 30 years, including seven years as chief.
Roberts has been with the department for 30 years, including seven years as chief. - El Dorado Hills Fire Department

El Dorado Hills Fire Department Chief Dave Roberts announced his June 30 retirement in an email to staff Monday, 2 1/2 years into the four-year contract he signed in 2015.

Roberts, 59, had initially pushed for a two-year contract from the El Dorado Hills Fire Department's Board of Directors, he said, before agreeing to a four-year deal. His pension won't be affected by the early retirement, he said.

“As many of you know I have been toying with the idea of retiring for some time now,” Roberts wrote in his email. “While my hope was to collaborate on a succession plan aimed at alleviating the turmoil typically caused by Chief Officer retirements, even the best intentions are often met with significant challenges, and changing timelines.”

Roberts' retirement comes less than a month after a lawsuit alleging sexism from the top down was filed against the department.

In the lawsuit, firefighter LisaMarie Mason claimed Roberts told her “this country went wrong when it allowed women to vote” and nicknamed her “Homeplate” because “everyone scores.”

Mason’s suit also accuses Roberts of “unnecessary touching” including hugging, pulling on her hair and striking her head in a downward motion.

Roberts said his decision to retire was not affected by the ongoing case, and otherwise declined to comment on the allegations Thursday.

”There's 100 things going on in the department, and there always is. It's never really a good time to retire,” Roberts said Thursday. “I might look young, but I’m turning 60 this year and I want to do a lot of things in the next few years.”

It wasn't the first legal issue the department faced during Roberts' seven-year stint as chief. His departure emails mentions “fighting off a scathing Grand Jury report,” a nod to the 2011 study alleging that the staffers received some of the highest compensation of any department in the Sacramento area despite fielding the fewest calls.

A 26-page Board of Directors rebuttal rejected most of the findings, and no substantive changes were made.

Roberts' retirement plans include spending time with his grandchildren, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and starting a company running motorcycle tours around the U.S.

He and his wife, Sondra, plan to move to Nevada after retiring, he said, and the real estate market was ripe to sell their house in the foothills.

The board will meet Friday to begin discussing Roberts' replacement.

Benjy Egel: (916) 321-1052, begel@sacbee.com

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