The search to find a new Garden Grove fire chief — after the previous chief resigned amidst a nepotism scandal — is almost complete, Interim City Manager Allan Roeder told a reporter after Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
According to Roeder, who said he could not reveal the number of candidates, “less than five” individuals will move on to another round of interviews with himself and council members.
The search for a new fire chief occurs amid an ongoing investigation by the Orange County District Attorney into allegations of nepotism and criminal misconduct in the hiring of former mayor Bruce Broadwater’s son as a firefighter, and the circumstances surrounding the employment of the previous fire chief.
Former fire chief David Barlag resigned last September after the fire union mounted a vocal campaign against Barlag and the hiring of Jeremy Broadwater.
Although Barlag publicly resigned from his position as fire chief in September, he secretly remained on the city’s payroll in a position created just for him that paid an executive salary for at least two years, and reported directly to the city manager.
Voice of OC first revealed Barlag’s continued employment in an article last November.
Barlag’s employment contract was the subject of a recent legal opinion by attorney Alan R. Burns, which concluded that the contract is not a gift of public funds.
Roeder noted after Tuesday’s city council meeting that Burns’ report relied on existing documents and did not involve investigation.
“His was a very facial review — it was a review of documents, he didn’t interview parties and then render a legal opinion,” Roeder said.
Burns’ report cost the city $6,000.
Although Barlag was not seen at City Hall for several months after taking his new position, Roeder has since given the former fire chief additional job duties and Barlag has returned to work daily.
In the meantime, retired fire chief William Hartley serves as the department’s interim chief.
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