Fresno Police Chief carried on multi-year affair with officer's wife (2024)

A hasty, oddly-phrased statement by the City of Fresno on Thursday announcing that it was investigating Police Chief Paco Balderrama for an “inappropriate relationship,” is not entirely what it appears.

Balderrama, multiple law enforcement sources confirmed to The Sun, is under investigation for engaging in a two-plus-year extramarital affair with the spouse of one of his own officers and leveraged his position to undermine the officer’s career moves that would have brought an end to the affair.

The backstory: The City of Fresno issued a statement late Thursday afternoon claiming that Balderrama informed Dyer and City Manager Georgeanne White of “an inappropriate off-duty relationship” with a “non-city employee,” triggering a months-long City Hall-led investigation.

  • The investigation, City officials claimed, is in a review process. City officials took the extraordinary step of pleading for reserving judgment on Balderrama until the investigation was complete.
  • Balderrama is currently married to his wife of 15 years and is a father of three children.

Reality differs: The investigation, according to City of Fresno law enforcement sources, centers on a roughly two-year sexual affair between Balderrama and the spouse of one of his subordinates, a Fresno Police officer.

  • Due to the sensitive nature of the allegations, The Sun is not naming the officer or his spouse.
  • Per a statement from the officer to The Sun, Balderrama initiated a roughly two-year, four-month long affair in August 2021, with it concluding – upon discovery – during the holidays in late 2023.
  • The officer and legal representatives reported the affair to Fresno’s City Attorney on Feb. 16, per the officer’s statement.
  • One day after the officer reported the affair to the City Attorney, Balderrama notified Dyer, initially only admitting to a single inappropriate incident that occurred years prior, minimizing the sheer length of the affair.

Blurrier lines: The City’s investigation into Balderrama centers on employment decisions made by the Fresno Police Department concerning the officer victimized by Balderrama’s affair.

  • In his statement, the officer said he was actively seeking a change in work assignment within the department from patrol to another division that would enable greater scheduling flexibility. One position, in particular, was represented by Balderrama as a likely landing spot more than a year before it became open.
  • The assignment would have dramatically reshaped the officers schedule by freeing up weekends, which would have interfered with Balderrama’s preferred time to access subordinate’s wife.
  • The allegation against Balderrama is that the department opted for another officer to fill the position to extend the affair with the victim officer’s wife.

A leaky City Hall: The Sun first contacted the City in early March about an investigation into Balderrama as part of a check on two seemingly connected rumors: that the Police Chief was on his way out of his position as he was an alleged finalist for a new job in a new municipality, and that there was a probe into his conduct.

  • At the time, a city spokeswoman declined to comment, citing the city’s longstanding policy of not issuing statements on personnel matters.
  • That changed on Thursday, following days of leaks about the existence of an investigation into Balderrama, with multiple leaked reasons as to why he was under investigation.
  • One allegation, dating back to shortly after his arrival in 2020, was that he carried on an inappropriate relationship with a then-Fresno Police Department employee.
  • City sources told The Sun that this alleged claim was previously investigated and found meritless.
  • Another allegation was that Balderrama was carrying on another inappropriate relationship with a member of Fresno’s local press corps. The Sun has been unable to verify the veracity of this claim.
  • Local reporters confronted members of the Fresno City Council and Dyer administration during a lunch break in Balderrama’s budget presentation on Wednesday about the investigation, with one news agency camping outside of Dyer’s office into the late hours of Wednesday evening.

Balderrama tries rallying troops: Ahead of the City’s announcement on Thursday, Balderrama called an all-hands meeting of high-ranking Fresno Police Department officials to provide a mea culpa about allegations against him.

  • Multiple law enforcement sources told The Sun that Balderrama described his indiscretion as a “one-time thing,” drastically minimizing the multi-year affair.
  • He also made no reference to the fact that the other party was the spouse of a subordinate within the department.
  • Balderrama also allegedly told senior police officials that they “can’t stand here in judgment of me,” alleging that all had made mistakes in their pasts.

Eyes turn to Fresno’s police officers: Late Friday evening, the Fresno Police Officers Association broke its silence on the controversy, with union president Brandon Wiemiller issuing a memo to members, criticizing the city’s statement as it “omits the most critical component of the investigation, and that is the nature of the relationship itself.”

  • In his memo, Wiemiller checked a key City Hall talking point at the center of the investigation: whether there were black letter violations of department policy, noting how officers are routinely disciplined for subjective or nebulous offenses.
  • “There has also been a prevalent narrative surrounding this situation that no policy violations have been established,” Wiemiller wrote of an investigator’s would-be assessment of Balderrama’s conduct. “[The allegations are] …an incredible offense to every sworn member of the agency, who is held to account for policy violations surrounding ‘discretion’ and ‘conduct unbecoming’ every day, both on and off duty. Additionally, the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics that our officers are expected to uphold every day has been violated.
  • For example, “Conduct unbecoming of a police officer” was a cause utilized by the City of Fresno – and directly referenced by Balderrama in public statements – in 2021 when it terminated Officer Rick Fitzgerald for his alleged ties to the Proud Boys without a review process on his termination.
  • “Public trust and accountability are paramount in our ability to fairly police this community. The integrity and legitimacy of our Police Department must be maintained,” Balderrama said at the time of announcing Fitzgerald’s firing.
  • Wiemiller announced that the police union would be holding an emergency Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday.

Author

The San Joaquin Valley Sun

Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.

Fresno Police Chief carried on multi-year affair with officer's wife (2024)

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