San Benito to review candidates for fire chief

SAN BENITO — The city’s fire department might have a new boss soon.

Later today, city commissioners are expected to meet with City Manager Manuel De La Rosa to review candidates for the job about 10 months after he demoted former Chief Raul Zuniga to a captain’s rank.

“I have a list of potential fire chief candidates that I will be discussing with the city commission,” De La Rosa state yesterday.

The city has been advertising for the job on its website and with the Texas Municipal League since November, Yolanda Villafranca, the city’s human resources director, stated.

De La Rosa stated he continues to accept applications.

Zuniga, now a captain with the department, is not a candidate for the job.

“All fire chief applicants have been from outside of the city organization,” De La Rosa stated.

The job, which offers a salary starting at $60,000, requires a bachelor’s degree, preferably in fire services, fire administration, public or business administration, management or a related field.

However, 10 years of experience as a fire department captain would satisfy that requirement.

Since Sept. 17, Capt. Boris Esparza has served as the city’s interim fire chief.

In August, De La Rosa demoted Zuniga for bidding at a fire department auction, although a city ordinance did not prohibit the practice at the time.

Last month, the city implemented an ordinance prohibiting the practice.

Later in the month, Zuniga, a 34-year department veteran, filed a lawsuit in state District Court, arguing the city did not have grounds to demote him.

In the suit, Zuniga, 58, also claims age discrimination, arguing De La Rosa replaced him with Esparza, who is more than 10 years younger and less experienced.

As a result, Zuniga, filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission’s Division of Civil Rights.

The lawsuit argues the city retaliated against Zuniga when Esparza sent a document to Texas Commission of Law Enforcement, falsely stating Zuniga was “dishonorably discharged” from his position.

Esparza has said he erroneously sent the document to the state.

What’s expected for the job

Bachelor’s degree, preferably in fire services, fire administration, public or business administration, management or a related field

10 years’ experience as a fire department captain would satisfy bachelor’s degree requirement

Salary starting at $60,000