Morro Bay fire captain files complaint against chief, gets fired

January 9, 2019

Morro Bay Fire Captain Todd Gailey rescuing a man from Morro Rock in 2016

Less than a half-year after filing a complaint against his chief, a Morro Bay fire captain and former firefighter of the year was fired from the city’s fire department. [KSBY]

Todd Gailey, who filed harassment paperwork against Morro Bay Fire Chief Steve Knuckles last July, said his termination process all came to a head after he submitted the complaint against Knuckles. The chief, who was cleared of any wrongdoing by the city following the complaint, cited several reasons for firing Gailey, including the fire captain’s cavalier attitude toward safety procedures.

Knuckles fired Gailey on Dec. 4, 2018. Gailey, who was both a fire captain and paramedic, is appealing his termination.

Gailey’s tenure with the fire department included Morro Rock rescue operations for which he garnered praise, and in at least one case, criticism from Knuckles.

In 2016, Gailey rescued a Fresno man who climbed on top of Morro Rock to digitally propose to his girlfriend. The man got stuck on the way down, and Gailey grabbed him from the rock after being lowered from a CHP helicopter. Officials published video of the rescue.

The following year, Gailey hiked Morro Rock to retrieve a battery from a drone that crash landed. Knuckles cited the incident as an example of Gailey not following safety procedures.

Gailey said he did follow safety procedures and that he coordinated city training for Morro Rock rescues.

Also in 2017, Gailey directed the rescue of a seagull that became entangled in power lines. The seagull rescue, too, was cited by Knuckles in his decision to fire Gailey.

Knuckles alleges Gailey placed a ladder truck dangerously close to power lines during the seagull rescue.

“The world saw me risk my life by being lowered out of a helicopter on Morro Rock and saving someone’s life and I got an award and all that,” Gailey said. “But now rescue a seagull from a residential power drop and I get fired?”

I don’t think that’s worthy of terminating any employee, Gailey said.

Gailey worked for the Morro Bay Fire Department for 16 years. In 2017, Gailey received $170,647 in total pay and benefits, according to Transparent California.

On Tuesday night, Gailey spoke during public comment at the Morro Bay City Council meeting and said he wants his job back.


First and foremost this guy is only telling half the truth! Todd not only put the safety of his colleagues at risk as a capitan he also bullied, used his management role as a way to persuade others into doing things against the M.O. U.. He acted like a reckless person on several occasions and had fallen out of favor with many of the reserves, fire fighters and engineers. Even the two capt that were there didn’t trust him. There were TWO investigations into Todd’s behavioral issues and yes, CAPT REES was part of that and had told the City, Chief and they still didn’t do anything to get rid of this guy!

This is only a few things over Todd. No one wanted to work on his shift and there is evidence of fraudulent reports and major misuse of power including very damaging texts.

Please remember he is a narcissist to a tee.

Be careful. He cheated on his wife, lost custody of his kids and does things he shouldn’t all in the name of religion.

Two sides people. And by the way, the Chief should of fired him years ago!!

Niles Q

Capt. Gailey is a fine, fearless young man who could work for any fire department in California, hell, anywhere in the world, his training and abilities are that good.

MBFD also lost Capt. George Rees last year to mysterious circumstances that haven’t been disclosed.

I believe his case involves a medical disability retirement.

MBFD is down two of its three captains right now, jobs that have rarely come open, let alone two.that’s unheard of in this town.

And while we’re at it, why’d the police chief get fired? Hmmm?


You obviously don’t know him. I venture you to call any fire station and ask if he would be an asset to “ any” fire department. Honey you don’t know jack crap.


She did the guy from Fresno get an answer on the proposal?


Gloves and a boxing ring and after they both keep their jobs…this is personal not administrative….and the Chief knows it…and we all know it….


Obviously a personality conflict here. The Chief is the Chief and the Captain is the Captain. The Chief is in charge although I hope there is a paper trail to justify this action. Certainly one incident as described wouldn’t justify a termination. Unfortunately this relationship will never heal and in the long run the Captain will leave the department with a pocket full of money. In today’s Judicial environment the government entities are not up for the fight and just takes the taxpayer’s money and buys them off so it will disappear, happens all of the time. They will claim confidentiality and will not be transparent with the process. But in the end a check of the city’s finances will disclose what the payoff was and probably along with a big fat retirement to go with it due to the stress that has been encountered. We lose again.


No personality conflict here. Todd is a reckless person.


Ok there’s 2 sides to every story and unfortunately we can’t hear the city’s side because of personnel confidentiality. I have never heard of any complaints against Chief Knuckles by any other firefighters or union in all the years of his leadership. Cpt. Gailey did a good job as he sites but that’s what he is trained and paid to do. I’m sure there is more than just the few incidents he sites for the city to terminate. He would have had to been offered demotion, etc. before firing.


I never understand the whole “personnel confidentiality” statement, when it involves taxpayers money the taxpayers should get “all” the information, but we know the unions have all the control not us little taxpayers. Clearly the one sure loser here will be the taxpayers as usual, $170K plus in compensation for this job in ridiculous, that is the real problem here. Of course he wants his job back, but would he take it when it pays half what it does now as it should. If not then I’d bet there would be willing to take the job.