By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
San Benito CISD Interim Superintendent Dr. Ismael Cantu cited “safety and security” reasons on Monday for reassigning school district Police Chief Santiago R. Garcia to a police officer on Friday, Jan. 17.
Celia Longoria, SBCISD Community Relations Director, released Cantu’s official statement via email Monday morning. In the statement, Cantu named longtime school district police officer Antonio Naranjo as Garcia’s temporary replacement.
“On Jan. 17, 2013 (sic), Police Chief S.R. Garcia was reassigned to the rank of police officer and officer Antonio Naranjo was named as Interim Police Chief for SBCISD,” Cantu said in the statement.
The interim superintendent went on to cite the staff and student body’s “safety and security” regarding the decision to demote Garcia in rank but did not offer further details.
“The safety and security of the children and staff of San Benito CISD is paramount and will not be compromised,” Cantu said. “Administrative action relative to compliance with safety and security directives given warranted immediate action. The Board of Trustees was informed of the reassignment via hand delivered mail on the same day the action was taken.”
Garcia, who said the district will continue to pay his $60,000 annual salary despite the reassignment, alleged that the move was an act of political retaliation for attending the recent campaign announcement party of board member Oscar Medrano. The now-former chief further alleged that the letter which Cantu gave him informing Garcia of the reassignment was initially penned by the interim superintendent’s predecessor, Alfonso Obregón, in November. Garcia said Obregón refused to sign the reassignment letter because the latter “disagreed.”
Attempts to reach Obregón for comment have been unsuccessful.
When asked for comment on Friday, Cantu referred to the issue as a personnel matter and would not confirm that the reassignment had taken place.
Medrano said he had only recently been made aware of Garcia’s demotion when the San Benito News contacted him late Friday and added that he planned to call Cantu to inquire about the matter.
As reported via sbnewspaper.com on Jan. 17 and in the Jan. 19 print edition of the News, Garcia has long been embroiled in controversy that has included allegations of sexual harassment, favoritism and blocking the investigation into a number of district employees.
“I’ve been cleared of all allegations,” Garcia said on Friday, referring to internal inquiries in which the findings of multiple levels of grievances have dismissed the accusations levied against him. “There are no grounds to terminate me. I suspect this is in retaliation for attending Medrano’s announcement, so I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens after the elections.”
Pick up a copy of the Jan. 22 edition of the San Benito News, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here, for an update on this story.