Rick Chavez, Fresno County’s probation chief, has been placed on administrative leave by the Superior Court’s presiding judge.
That has triggered a question among county supervisors about who has jurisdiction over that post.
Chavez, 59, a 32-year county employee, was appointed by the presiding judge as probation chief in 2013. He was affirmed in the post by supervisors, and is a county employee paid by the county.
Word of Chavez’s discipline was sent in an email to county officials Thursday. The email named Michael Elliott as the interim probation chief, said Paul Nerland, the county’s director of personnel services.
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Chavez and presiding Judge Kimberly Gaab, who made the decision, couldn’t be reached Thursday for comment.
Supervisors say they are concerned about the meting out of discipline without review by the county administrative officer.
“The Board of Supervisors has received very little information regarding this matter,” said Supervisor Henry R. Perea. “At this point, there may be a concern that the Superior Court may have exceeded its authority.”
He said the county’s lawyers and personnel office are researching the situation to provide more information to supervisors about jurisdiction.
Since Chavez is a county employee, Supervisor Andreas Borgeas said any discipline should come from the county.
“It’s counterintuitive to think that an instrument of the state has oversight over an employee of a separate government entity,” Borgeas said.
Board Chairman Buddy Mendes said he’s concerned about the discipline.
“If the judge wanted to do this, she should have gone to our personnel (department) and asked if we could have him walk away gracefully. Nobody knows this occurred.”
Mendes, too, said that county officials are “wondering if the judge has overstepped her legal authority.”
Mendes describes Chavez as a “super guy.”
“We’re upset because we don’t know if a good guy is being railroaded or this is something here that somebody knows anything about,” he said. “I’m devastated that this has happened.”
The probation department has more than 600 employees and a $75 million budget.