Mission Fire Chief back at work after two week suspension

A mishandling of an internal investigation cost the Mission Fire Chief two weeks of pay and the City of Mission more than $120,000.

The investigation was launched after surveillance video of the fire department showed an unauthorized person entering the building after hours.

"It was brought to the attention of the fire chief that there had been a female who was unauthorized that was let into the building," Mission City Manager Martin Garza said.

The investigation revealed that a witnesses saw the woman with Mission Fire Engineer Alejandro Gonzalez.

Witnesses reportedly saw the woman sitting in his lap bouncing and barely clothed.

Mission Fire Chief Ricardo Saldana fired Gonzalez, but he didn't go down without a fight.

Gonzalez filed and won an appeal.

The city filed a lawsuit against Gonzalez which went all the way up to the Texas Supreme Court who ruled in favor of Gonzalez.

"A lot of things were left behind (in the investigation) like asking the simple question to Mr. Gonzalez if he actually conducted the allegations that were brought against him," Garza said.

Garza said the mishandling of the investigation is what caused the city to not only be forced to give Gonzalez his job back, but also pay him three years of back pay he lost as he waited for a final verdict on the lawsuit.

"A review of the case simply indicated that there was lack of handling this investigation appropriately," he said.

Saldana was given a two week suspension without pay that ended yesterday.

"We feel that he made some mistakes along the way during the investigation and those mistakes were very detrimental to laying the foundation of the case," Garza said.

This is the first time Saldana has been disciplined for anything like this.

Garza said although the case was mishandled, it was important for the city to fight the case against Gonzalez.

"Defending the integrity of the fire department to us is very important," he said.

Garza said the fire department will continue to monitor video surveillance to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.