Balderrama resigns as Fresno’s Chief of Police over “poor discretion” in affair with officer’s wife

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer and City Manager Georgeanne White discussed how investigators reached conclusions that led to Balderrama’s resignation.

Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama resigned on Tuesday after an investigation was completed by the city into an affair that he had with an officer’s wife. 

City Manager Georgeanne White said at a press conference Tuesday morning at City Hall that the investigation did not sustain an allegation that Balderrama used his power to undermine the officer’s career moves. But Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer noted that his conduct indicated “poor discretion.”

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The big picture: Mayor Jerry Dyer said he was informed by Balderrama on Feb. 17 that he was involved in an inappropriate relationship. 

  • The city launched an investigation into the relationship shortly after, contracting attorney Andrew Aller. 
  • White said she was unable to get into the specifics of the investigation, but said that evidence was presented to the investigator that Balderrama did not block the officer from a different position in the department. 
  • Dyer thanked Balderrama for his accomplishments while serving as chief since he joined the city in January 2021, highlighting his focus on violent crime. Dyer said shootings are down by over 45 percent this year and that murders were down significantly last year as well. Dyer said Balderrama advanced the technology in the department, developed partnerships at the local, state and federal levels and praised him for recruiting and hiring over 300 officers and dispatchers. 
  • “All of these are admirable accomplishments for a police chief, however we do believe this resignation by the chief is in the best interests of the community, the police department and our employees, as well as for Chief Balderrama and the families involved given the intense media scrutiny that this matter has received at the local, state and federal levels,” Dyer said. 
  • Dyer said he believes Balderrama will serve as an effective police chief in another major city, later saying that he will be transparent with any other mayor who calls him asking about Balderrama. 
  • Balderrama offered to resign over the course of the investigation, according to Dyer, but his resignation was not accepted until the investigation wrapped up. 

Balderrama speaks: The city put out a statement from Balderrama in which he thanked Dyer’s administration for giving him the opportunity and highlighted his accomplishments at the department – growing the allotted number of positions to 926, reducing violent crime and property crime by double digits, improving communication and technology and increasing community trust. 

  • “The people of Fresno are beautiful, diverse, and very supportive of their police department. Even through my most difficult trials you have been kind, forgiving, and uplifting. Thank you for being there for me,” Balderrama said. “The rewarding part of the job has not been the huge responsibility, job stress, or intense work. It has always been the people. I will miss both the Fresno community and every member of the Fresno Police Department. I have no doubt that this group of hard-working and compassionate police officers and professional staff will continue to thrive and do great things. This is the right time for me to step away and focus on my faith and family. I love you.” 

What we’re watching: Deputy Chief Mindy Casto will continue serving as interim chief until the city replaces Balderrama on a permanent basis. 

  • Casto has been leading the department since Balderrama was placed on paid administrative leave by White on June 12. 
  • Dyer said the goal is to conduct a national search and hire a new chief in the next four to five months. 

Fact check: White started off the press conference alleging that local media printed gossip and innuendo as fact, singling out a report by The Sun published on June 10 revealing that Balderrama had an affair with an officer’s wife. 

  • Up until The Sun’s report, the city had only said Balderrama was in an inappropriate off-duty relationship with a “non-city employee.”
  • “In the June 10 article, The Sun stated Balderrama notified [Dyer], initially only admitting to a single inappropriate incident that occurred years prior, minimizing the sheer length of the affair,” White said. “Only two people know what was said in that conversation. Neither Chief Balderrama or Mayor Dyer spoke to The Sun.” 
  • White is correct that Balderrama and Dyer did not speak with The Sun. That information came from a statement from the officer, who had spoken with Dyer regarding the allegations after the Mayor spoke with Balderrama.
  • The Sun contacted the city in early March for comment about an alleged investigation into Balderrama, but a city spokeswoman declined to comment at the time, citing a city policy of not discussing personnel matters. 
  • After a number of media outlets reached out in early June, the city revealed that Balderrama was under investigation for an inappropriate relationship and that there would be no further comment on the matter. 
  • White also said the allegation regarding the abuse of authority was repeated and listed as a fact.
  • In the June 10 article, The Sun clearly stated that the officer was alleging that Balderrama kept the officer from moving to a different position. The Sun never stated that the allegation was true.

The officer’s response: The officer’s attorney, Brian Whelan, issued a statement following Tuesday’s press conference praising his client for stepping forward to expose Balderrama’s misconduct. 

  • “My client’s fortitude has not only brought relief to himself but also to the numerous Fresno Police officers who have been betrayed by Balderrama’s actions,” Whelan said. “Any attempt by the city to spin this resignation as anything other than Balderrama facing the consequences of his misconduct is a misrepresentation of reality.” 
  • Whelan continued, “The reality is clear: Paco Balderrama’s own unethical behavior is the reason for his departure. It is deeply regrettable that it took media scrutiny, rather than decisive action and a commitment to police ethics and moral clarity, to spur the city’s decision-makers into action.” 
  • Whelan said other media reports have misrepresented recent confidential efforts to resolve the issue between the officer and the Balderrama since February. 
  • “These efforts included a request to honor a 2022 agreement in which Balderrama promised my client a specific position within the department,” Whelan said. “Balderrama later reneged on this agreement in a bid to further his extramarital affair, a clear violation of professional and ethical standards.” 
  • “Although the city’s investigation – funded by the city – did not officially uphold the allegation that Balderrama abused his authority to assign this position to another officer, his resignation stands as undeniable evidence of his misconduct and breach of public trust,” Whelan continued. 

Fresno Police Officer’s union responds: Fresno Police Officers Association President Brandon Wiemiller applauded the decision by Balderrama to resign as being in the best interest for the city and department.

  • ”The FPOA agrees with the City that Paco Balderrama’s resignation is best for all parties involved,” Wiemiller said in a statement.
  • “We know our officers, along with our community, are seeking closure and understanding. Despite the turmoil of recent days, our officers remain undaunted in their mission to protect, serve, and care for the citizens of Fresno. As this chapter closes, we look to the future. The FPOA has full faith and confidence in the existing, highly qualified leadership to move our agency forward,” Wiemiller said.
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