California police chief’s affair with officer’s wife at center of investigation, sources say

Fresno police Chief Paco Balderrama is under investigation by the city for an extended affair with the wife of one of his officers, according to a high-ranking city official.

Balderrama has been under investigation since February after informing Mayor Jerry Dyer and City Manager Georgeanne White that he might be accused of an inappropriate relationship, the city confirmed last week. He has been chief since the beginning of 2021 when he moved to California’s fifth-largest city from Oklahoma City, where he was deputy chief.

Officials at the city of Fresno declined to comment on Wednesday, according to Fresno Mayor’s Office spokesperson Sontaya Rose. “We cannot comment further until the investigation has concluded,” she wrote in a text message to The Bee.

A high-ranking Fresno official, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly, said Balderrama’s affair of about two years with the wife of an officer was at the center of the city’s ongoing investigation of the police chief.

The officer has been with the department for more than a decade.

The chief of police position in Fresno is an at-will job, which means the person holding it can be terminated at any time for any reason, according to the wording of the contract. It is not protected by the police union.

The investigation into the chief led by the Fresno City Attorney’s Office, according to a city news release, was meant to determine if Balderrama had violated any department or city policies.

The relationship between Balderrama and the wife of an officer also was corroborated by The Bee through a second source close to the investigation who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the details publicly.

Rank-and-file members of the police department have expressed anger over word of the affair, affecting morale and internal support for the chief. The Fresno Police Officers Association, which is the union for officers, said the city of Fresno’s news release last week omitted pertinent information about the nature of the relationship in question.

The FPOA executive board was expected to meet on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the details of the investigation while under attorney-client privilege, according to a memo to union members obtained by The Bee.

Balderrama, who is a married father of three, appealed to officers Monday in a memo in which he admitted wrongdoing and asked forgiveness. The memo did not address the nature of the relationship under investigation or the people involved.

“I humbly come to you and ask for your forgiveness as your leader, who clearly has flaws and imperfections,” Balderrama’s memo says. “I realize many of you may be upset and disappointed. I understand those feelings and I don’t fault you for it.”