Fresno

Ex-Parlier police chief says embezzlement probe of employee cost him his job

Probing an embezzlement scheme within the Parlier Police Department is what cost Parlier’s former police chief his job amid a showdown with Mayor Alma Beltran.

That’s according to a $20 million government claim filed by ex-Parlier Police Chief Jose Garza in advance of a lawsuit.

Garza’s ouster from the Parlier Police Department was framed by Beltran as being largely a budgetary decision, citing that $3.3 million of the city’s $3.5 million annual general fund was dedicated to the police department.

But a bombshell Friday report from ABC30 appears to buttress Garza’s side of the story.

At the center of the matter is Parlier Police records supervisor Rosalia Solis, who brought claims of stolen cash for police services – such as copying police reports or Livescan fingerprinting – and blamed another employee who was stealing the department’s money and shredding receipts, a search warrant filed by the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office said, per the station report.

An outside investigator retained by Garza found that the trail circled back to Solis herself.

Currently, prosecutors are reviewing the case and are set to make a charging decision soon, the TV station reported.

DA investigators corroborated claims by the department’s outside investigator, with department employees saying Solis stole the cash and shredded receipts.

Upon learning that Solis was the suspect, Garza was eventually fired from his position.

“Mr. Garza is no longer the chief of the city of Parlier anymore because he reported that there was embezzlement going on by a very well-liked city employee,” Alan Romero, Garza’s attorney, told the ABC affiliate.

A letter from Parlier’s City Attorney went to extraordinary lengths to warn Romero and Garza of potential defamation liability against Solis.

“You and Garza are not immune from liability to Ms. Solis,” says the letter from Neal E. Constanzo to Romero. “And it is shocking that you would make these false claims about her given Garza’s knowledge that it would be impossible for Solis to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt so that the malicious investigation of her by a District Attorney who is not likely to pursue a case that cannot possibly be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, is very likely going nowhere. At which point we are likely going to share your letter with Ms. Solis.”

Costanzo’s letter also sought to clarify the reasons for Garza’s ouster, combining an expiring contract and echoing Beltran’s statements regarding city budget issues.

Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.