Fresno

Parlier threatens to cut off Coalinga contract for emergency dispatch services over hiring of ex-chief

The cities of Parlier and Coalinga are in the midst of a heated battle over, of all things, radios.

The two communities, located on opposite ends of Fresno County, have a contract to share Coalinga-based emergency dispatch services for public safety needs.

The two-year-old contract for emergency dispatch is now in danger because Parlier’s former police chief is moving into the same position with Coalinga.

Jose Garza was fired by the Parlier City Council last April in what Mayor Alma Beltran said was mostly a budgetary decision. 

But Garza filed a government complaint in September that showed evidence of an embezzlement scheme by a city employee, which Garza reported. 

Fresno County prosecutors declined to prosecute the case.

Several months after his exit from Parlier, Garza is joining Coalinga as the Interim Police Chief once current chief Darren Blevins retires. 

According to the Coalinga City Council’s agenda from its meeting on Jan. 6, Beltran told Coalinga officials in December that she would terminate the dispatch contract on behalf of the City of Parlier if Garza is hired as the next chief. 

The two cities initially agreed to an $86,000 contract in February 2019, but that total rose to $104,000 annually the last two years. 

That 2019 transition to Coalinga hosting Parlier’s dispatching services was not a smooth one. 

“Since taking over dispatching for Parlier, their officers are becoming more aggressive over the radio, taking up more radio time than initially anticipated, and, most recently, they have began to calling into dispatch and speaking to our staff in an unprofessional manner,” the staff report on the Jan. 6 agenda reads. 

“These occurrences generally happen when a dispatcher may miss something that has come through the CLETS line. Our supervisors have reached out to Parlier’s supervisors and asked they address the issues with their officers, but it does not appear that has worked.” 

Coalinga said that Blevins has reached out to current Parlier Police Chief David Cerda to advise him of the situation, but the incidents are still occurring. 

The staff report also claims that Coalinga police officers have to fight for radio time since Parlier police officers take up the majority of the radio time. 

“[O]ur officers either have to wait for a period of time before they can get on the radio or they have to take action off the radio and then advise dispatch after the fact which is a serious officer safety issue,” the staff report reads. 

Cancellation of the dispatching contract would require 180 days written notice between the cities.

The disputed public safety dispatch contract comes just as the Fresno County Grand Jury released a report on Tuesday detailing issues over Parlier’s policies and procedures for administration, budget, and finance.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.