The State Worker

Here’s why Cal Fire director didn’t testify in Academy firing case

Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. AP

As we reported in this week’s State Worker column, Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott was subpoenaed last week to testify in a hearing about a department manager’s firing, but he was taken off the list.

Former Cal Fire Assistant Chief Mike Ramirez challenged his termination as a high-level Ione Academy leader earlier this year and wanted Pimlott to answer questions about employee drinking at Cal Fire functions. One reason the department said it fired Ramirez was that he allegedly drank alcohol while on state time at a 2012 graduation ceremony and had allowed subordinates to do the same.

Ramirez said he wasn’t sure that he had consumed alcohol, but regardless, he said, Cal Fire’s leadership from Pimlott down allowed a culture that tolerated drinking while on duty despite a zero-tolerance policy.

The law, however, erects a high threshold for forcing top-level government officials to testify, otherwise they’d spend all their time in a witness chair instead of at work. Amy Friedman, the State Personnel Board administrative law judge who heard the Ramirez case, said that Pimlott wouldn’t have to testify if he submitted a statement that he knew nothing about drinking at graduation ceremonies.

Pimlott filed this declaration. Friedman struck him from the witness list.

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