It was a big surprise at Tuesday night's City Council meeting in Premont as the decision was made to fire the chief of the Premont Police Department.
Council voted to fire Chief Ricardo Herrera because of excessive overtime. Discussing the issue of overtime for the police department was an agenda item for Tuesday night's meeting, as was discussing Herrera's job performance, but whether or not Herrera would be fired was not listed as an item on the agenda.
"It was to the point where it was practically illegal," Herrera said. "If you put out an agenda, that gives everybody a reason to show and expect what's on the agenda, not bring out things outside of the agenda and act on them, so there is no backbone, no integrity in that council."
Council went into executive session for about an hour, and then one council member made a motion to fire Herrera and for him to surrender his keys and city equipment effective immediately. In total, three members voted for that motion, one voted against.
The mayor, who did not vote, does not support the firing of Herrera, and said part of the overtime pay issue has to do with holiday pay, which is approved by City Council, not the chief; and the mayor-pro tem, who also does not support the firing, said the overtime problem is not Herrera's fault.
"Well you have to cover the town of Premont 24 hours," Premont Mayor Dalia Gee said. "I didn't see any abuse. The expectations from the citizens and from the City Council as well is to cover the city."
"He was short handed when all this happened, even though we had talked to him about the overtime in February, but in March, an employee quit, so he was short handed," Premont Mayor Pro-Tem Raul R. Garcia said. "And another employee quit in April, which made him even shorter handed, and then another officer called in sick, so that left him just with three people."
The City Council also voted to make Luis Valadez, Jr., the interim police chief.
The council member who made the motion to fire Herrera, Richard Belasquez, said he could not disclose any information because the matter was discussed in executive session.