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After 3 weeks on administrative leave, San Juan police chief abruptly retires

1 month 2 weeks 2 days ago Wednesday, August 05 2020 Aug 5, 2020 August 05, 2020 9:22 PM August 05, 2020 in News - Local

San Juan police Chief Juan Gonzalez retired on Wednesday, about three weeks after the city placed him on paid administrative leave.

Gonzalez submitted retirement paperwork on Wednesday, said City Manager Ben Arjona. He will not return to work, but San Juan will pay Gonzalez until Aug. 14.

“The agreement was that he’ll retire but we’ll pay him to the end of next week,” Arjona said. “But he doesn’t have to come back.”

Gonzalez couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Wednesday night.

In a statement released in mid-July, when San Juan placed him on administrative leave, Gonzalez said he took the job seriously and gave the city 110%.

“My attendance, performance and conduct has been exemplary. I have been a career street cop that moved up the ranks in Pharr Pd through the civil service process and then hired in San Juan Pd. I have always taking care of police officers on and off duty. My work ethic protecting the community speaks for itself,” Gonzalez said the statement. “I have build San Juan Pd to become one of the best law enforcement agencies in south Texas and build numerous local, state and federal partnerships that have help our city build a new police department with asset forfeiture funds, and also purchased 95% of our fleet with asset forfeiture funds. I appreciate all the calls of support I have received from many law enforcement leaders, faith based leaders, San Juan residents and my own officers, and staff.”

Gonzalez started his law enforcement career in 1988, when he joined the Pharr Police Department, according to city personnel records. During the next two decades, Gonzalez worked his way from patrol officer to lieutenant.

He accepted the police chief position in San Juan during February 2009.

Gonzalez became a fixture on television news, where he frequently touted raids by the regional SWAT team and discussed efforts to dismantle local gangs. Many officers, though, accused him of playing favorites and running the police department like his personal fiefdom.

Complaints about Gonzalez never seemed to stick. He served as city manager from April 2014 to September 2015, when the City Commission hired Arjona.

After successfully navigating city politics for more than a decade, Gonzalez apparently fell out of favor with the City Commission.

Arjona placed Gonzalez on paid administrative leave July 14 but declined to discuss the details. What prompted the decision remained a mystery Wednesday.

In response to a public information request from KRGV-TV, the city of San Juan said no records on the paid administrative leave existed — not even a personnel action form documenting the decision.

“He said he felt like the city was moving in a new direction,” Arjona said. “So he wanted to retire.”

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