Considering former police chief for new position causing stir

The City of Harlingen is currently looking for a public safety director, and not everyone is happy about it.

Retired police officer and Harlingen resident Joe Rubio said, "I think the position itself creates a can of worms."

"We're trying to figure out what (City Manager) Mr. (Carlos) Yerena and Mayor (Chris) Boswell are trying to do," he added.

Harlingen city commissioners approved the creation of the post Wednesday, with Boswell admitting that there is a candidate already in mind, former Police Chief Tom Whitten.

He just left the police department in December, and is currently paid by the city for consulting services.

"This position is being created for him," Rubio said.

Just hours after the commission meeting, the job description was posted on the city's Website. Public Information Officer Dave Ralph said the goal is to unify the city's civil service force and improve communication between firefighters and police. The public safety director will also serve as the city's emergency manager.

"Also, they're going to provide some new customer service initiatives for both police and fire departments," Ralph said, "(and provide) a stronger bridge between those two departments."

Some firefighters spoke-up during public comments telling commissioners they're concerned about how this new position will affect tenure and structure within the departments, but Ralph said, "it's not going to eliminate the fire chief," or police chief.

Rubio also chimed in at the meeting. He tells Action 4 News Whitten is a smart educated man, but was also a "manipulating" leader.

"Most of the police officers and firefighters will eventually face the repercussions of bringing back Police Chief Whitten meaning they may be transferred, demoted, their positions may be done away with," Rubio said.

Bottom line, he adds, the city does not need to fork-up - an estimated $100,000 to $160,000 for a public safety director.

"By bringing him back it gives (Whitten) a chance to make a little bit more money," Rubio said. "He left for El Paso because of his kids, he needs to stay in El Paso."