Voters asked to resolve dispute between Fresno County and superior court

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Voters will be asked to help settle a power struggle between the Fresno County supervisors and the judges of the Superior Court.

The supervisors are upset the judges have suspended the county's chief probation officer Rick Chavez.

Chavez was suspended with pay more than two months ago while allegations of misconduct were investigated by the Superior Court.

The board of supervisors finally learned the nature of the allegations, and are angry they have been kept in the dark for so long.

Now they are hoping the voters will help them get control of the probation department.

Chavez oversaw operation of the County's Juvenile Justice system.

Although he is a Fresno County employee, the judges of the Superior Court, a state jurisdiction, have authority over him.

That's the way it is in most California counties, and the chief judge had Chavez suspended 9 weeks ago.

His supporters are now voicing their frustration to the board supervisors

"What this whole investigation was, in my view, was a witch hunt," Ray Martinez said.

The supervisors just received a letter summarizing the allegations against Chavez.

They include, "Unlawful and unauthorized abdication of duties," for allegedly allowing a subordinate to run the department.

"Failure to competently plan for and address job vacancies," for not hiring enough juvenile probation officers.

"Allowing a subordinate to own and operate an establishment with a liquor license," and allowing another probation officer to work in the bar.

As well as using Profane and disrespectful statements about the Superior Court and its judges.

Chavez is reported to have used an expletive to describe a judge, and the Sheriff.

Chavez' attorney, Barry Bennet says the allegations are unfounded or exaggerate

"We know that a number of these things never happened or didn't happen the way they were described," Bennet said.

The Board of Supervisors seemed sympathetic to Chavez, and upset with the courts.

County Administrative Officer Jean Rousseau encouraged the board to ask voters to change the county charter, and allow the board of supervisors and not the judges to decide who's the chief probation officer.

"To put the appointment of the Chief Probation Officer on the ballot is warranted and absolutely the right thing to do," he explained.

The Supervisors agreed and will put the question of who should control the Chief Probation Officer on the November election ballot.

But the courts could discipline, or fire him before then.
Copyright © 2019 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.