Commission considering if fire chief Elizondo can return

Former Brownsville Fire Department Fire Chief Carlos Elizondo sits through with his attorney a evidentiary hearing on the appeal of the order of indefinite suspension filed by Fire Chief Jarrett Sheldon.

Today the Civil Service Commission will decide whether former fire chief Carlos Elizondo should be reinstated as a civil servant for the Brownsville Fire Department.

The decision will come after two days of testimony that began Thursday and is expected to conclude today.

Ric. J. Navarro, attorney for the City of Brownsville, said the public hearing is for the commission to decide whether Elizondo can be part of the classified service again—not for him to return to work as the city’s fire chief.

Navarro said that the hearing is a civil matter—and not a criminal matter.

“This case is (to decide if Elizondo gets) to be a civil servant in the fire department as a lieutenant, because you’re not putting him back as chief, Navarro said. You’re just simply deciding whether he gets to be a lieutenant back in the department.”

According to archives in The Brownsville Herald, Elizondo was the fire chief in August 2017 when he became the subject of a police investigation after a complaint was filed against him by the Brownsville Firefighters Association. The complaint alleged that Elizondo made improper ATM cash withdrawals totaling $8,000 from the association s political committee while he was the association president from January 2014 to 2016—a time when he was not the fire chief.

Elizondo has denied the allegations.

The city demoted Elizondo to lieutenant in September 2017 and then suspended without pay in October that year after he was indicted in connection to the investigation on a charge of theft by a public servant and misapplication of fiduciary property, according to Herald archives.

Elizondo has pleaded not guilty to those charges, which are pending.

Witnesses today and Thursday were to include City Commissioner Ben Neece and members of the fire and police department. Approximately 15 witnesses are scheduled to testify.

Thursday s testimony kicked off with Brownsville Police Department Detective Juan Alvarez, who was in charge of investigating whether Elizondo accessed the Brownsville Fire Department Emergency Reporting System without authorization from the city while he was suspended without pay. The investigation led to Elizondo being charged with six counts of computer security breach, but Elizondo was found not guilty to all six of those charges in September this year.

During the hearing, the city played audio of which Elizondo can be heard talking to dispatchers about rerouting service calls to a private ambulance company.

According to Herald archives, a 2017 internal audit of the Brownsville Fire Department’s use of a private ambulance company in 2016 indicated that, despite not owning the company, Elizondo allegedly pledged a Harley-Davidson motorcycle to a bank as a collateral for a loan for the company.

Elizondo is being represented by attorney Eddie Lucio, who said they’re not denying Elizondo made the calls.

The hearing resumes today at 8:30 a.m. at the second floor community room inside La Plaza at Brownsville Terminal, 755 International Blvd.

nreyna@brownsvilleherald.com