EXCLUSIVE: Fired San Benito Fire Chief Speaks

Orlando Garcia has many questions after being notified in a letter late Wednesday that his services were no longer needed as San Benito's fire chief.

He and his attorney Fernando Mancias speak exclusively to Action 4 News about the termination.

"With almost no notice at all, City Manager Manuel Lara gave him a letter saying we don't need you anymore and you're gone," Mancias said.

Lara released a statement through the City Attorney's office stating that Garcia has left the fire department and that it was in the best interest of the City of San Benito.

Mancias says the action was strictly political and goes against a contract between Garcia and the city.

"So the City of San Benito, thanks to Mr. Lara, is in breach of contract."

Mancias claims Garcia's termination stems from a long running dispute between the chief, some commissioners and former Asst. Fire Chief Henry Lopez, who was recently relieved of his duties.

Lopez has a hearing on his firing next week.

"We feel very strongly that the reason that Mr. Garcia was fired yesterday was to stop the hearing from going through next Tuesday," Mancias said. "Basically, many things would have been uncovered that would have been disastrous for the City of San Benito and also Mr. Lopez. It's all about timing."

Garcia said he is proud to have served the City of San Benito.

"I've worked for some good people in that city, a lot of people in that community that have been very supportive," he said. "My family has become part of that community and these decisions are made and certainly it's not something that I wanted to see."

Garcia added that the city has seen many positive things under his tenure.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity to have served the community there and have done a lot of things for the city and bring them up to where they are today," he said.

Mancias said Garcia will seek legal action for the termination, but the fired chief won't go into details about what he hopes will come out of it.

Action 4 News asked Garcia if he plans to fight to get reinstated.

I think that's not an issue to discuss right now. Whatever transpires at a later date will transpire," he replied.

The City Manager says the fire chief is considered a regular full-time employee and does not fall under the protection of the city's civil service system.

Fire Capt. Jesus Belleza has been appointed Interim Fire Chief until the position can be advertised and a replacement selected by the city.