Garden Grove Fire Chief Resigns

Garden Grove Fire Chief David Barlag has resigned amid pressure from the firefighters’ union on city officials and the anticipated release of a investigative report into the department’s management.

Barlag’s resignation was effective immediately in a letter he submitted Tuesday to City Manager Matthew Fertal.  City employes were notified that night in an email sent by Fertal, according to a city press release.

Barlag could not be reached for comment but Garden Grove Mayor Bruce Broadwater blamed pressure from the Fire Department’s union for his departure.

“How much garbage can a human being stand? [Barlag] was being totally harassed by members of the Fire Department, with the exception of a few,” Broadwater told Voice of OC. “It’s all about one thing and only one thing — money.”

But Barlag was under significant immediate pressure for hiring and retaining Jeremy Broadwater, the mayor’s 37-year-old son, as a firefighter, despite a series of misdemeanor convictions and poor performance reviews from his superiors.

In June, the fire union voted 51-0 to give Barlag a vote of no confidence, prompting the city to initiate an independent investigation by the firm Management Partners Inc. into fire department management. 

Bowing to public and union pressure, the city council, at its last council meeting on Sept. 23, instructed Fertal to create a written report on the investigation’s findings. 

According to the city press release, Barlag “dealt with the challenges of maintaining the professionalism and integrity of the department, while remaining under scrutiny by former members of the Fire Department.”

In his letter to Fertal, Barlag pointed to his resignation as a “means for the department to begin to rebuild.”

Barlag was with the department for 26 years and served as deputy fire chief before being appointed to the top position in 2012.

The city didn’t immediately appoint an interim chief and Fertal currently is “exploring options,” according to city spokeswoman Ana Pulido. In the meantime, there will be a nationwide search to permanently fill the vacant position.

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