Former Parlier police chief says investigating embezzlement by an employee cost him the job

PARLIER, Calif. (KFSN) -- Investigators have uncovered embezzlement at the Parlier Police Department, but when the chief investigated it, he says it got him fired.

"Long story short: The city retaliated against him by not renewing his contract," said Alan Romero, an attorney for former chief Jose Garza.

Inside the lobby of the Parlier police department, a fee schedule is posted for people who need police reports, Livescan fingerprinting, fix-it ticket sign-offs, or to get their vehicles back after getting towed.

Payments come in cash and the department collects it in a bag.

Or at least it did until early this year, right up until records supervisor Rosalia Solis told then-police chief Garza someone was stealing money and shredding the police department's receipts.

A search warrant filed by a Fresno County district attorney's office investigator reveals Solis pointed the finger at another employee.

But when Garza hired an outside investigator to look into the missing money, the evidence pointed back at Solis.

"People have seen her taking money from the bag that's supposed to be going to the bank. She's complaining about overspending and being in debt," said legal analyst Tony Capozzi after reviewing the search warrant.

When Action News asked Solis about the accusations, she refused to comment.

She is not charged with any crime as of now.

The district attorney's office tells us the case is under final review and they'll make a charging decision soon.

Their investigator talked to employees who say Solis took money from the bag and she's also the person who directed the shredding of receipts.

But according to the Garza, finding this out cost him his job as chief.

Garza filed a government claim against the city asking for $20 million and saying he was fired as a result of his investigation.

"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," said Romero, the attorney for the former Parlier chief and longtime Fresno police officer.

Mayor Alma Beltran told Action News she couldn't comment on a personnel matter and referred usto the new chief, David Cerda.

He confirmed an embezzlement investigation has so far resulted in one employee let go for mishandling money, but wouldn't say who.

The former chief's attorney says he believes Solis is still working for the city.

A recent letter from an attorney representing Parlier says the chief's government claim is inaccurate.

It says the city council let Garza go because his contract had ended and they couldn't agree to terms on a new contract.

It also warns Romero that he and his client are slandering 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."

Capozzi disagrees about the likely result of the criminal investigation, but says Garza will probably need more evidence to prove he got fired for blowing the whistle on embezzlement.

"The issue's going to come down to whether he was fired for revealing what was going on or whether he was fired for budget reasons, hiring an outside investigator, and allowing this embezzlement to go on," Capozzi said.

The city has until Sept. 16 to respond to Garza's government claim.

After that, he can file a lawsuit.
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