City manager letter: Fire chief out over ‘performance’

HARLINGEN — City Manager Dan Serna’s letters show he fired former Fire Chief Roy Rubio over concerns about his job performance.

Serna fired Rubio, who had served as fire chief for about six years, effective Tuesday, City Commissioner Frank Puente said Wednesday.

Serna’s concerns had led him to place Rubio on a “performance improvement plan,” the letters dated Sept. 8 and Sept. 10 show.

“I have decided to terminate your employment as fire chief for the city of Harlingen, Texas,” Serna states in the Sept. 10 letter provided by Puente. “I have lost confidence in your ability to continue to lead the fire department as its fire chief and I do not see that continuing to work with you under the performance improvement plan is going to do any good.

“Therefore, your employment with the City is terminated. The effective date shall be the close of the current pay cycle, which is next Tuesday, September 15, 2020.”

Rubio did not respond to a request for comment.

At City Hall, Serna declined comment.

“Mr. Serna does not comment on personnel matters,” city spokeswoman Irma Garza stated.

In his Sept. 8 letter, Serna expressed his “continuing concerns” over Rubio’s “handling” of the fire department’s aircraft rescue firefighting station and “the city’s obligations” to Valley International Airport and the Federal Aviation Administration.

“I am finding myself having to spend a lot of time dealing with performance issues that any reasonably competent fire chief would be able to handle with minimum supervision,” Serna states in the Sept. 10 letter. “I am having to consistently clean up and fix problems created by your inability to work with VIA, with the FAA and your own staff.”

Rubio has filed two grievances against Serna regarding the airport fire department, City Commissioner Frank Puente said last week.

Age discrimination complaint

In his Sept. 8 letter, Serna responds to Rubio’s filing of a complaint charging he was discriminated against as a result of his age.

“I can assure you that none of this has anything to do with age discrimination,” Serna wrote. “It has to do with your performance and nothing else.”

In his Sept. 10 letter, Serna states his decision to fire Rubio was made “in the city’s best interest.”

“I do not like making this decision but it is in the city’s best interest to make this change in the leadership of the department,” Serna wrote. “I appreciate your efforts as fire chief during your tenure with the city and I wish you the best in your future endeavors.”

Rubio, who was hired in 2014 at a salary of $97,500, was earning $128,177 at the time of his termination.

Rubio had served as chief of the McAllen and Weslaco fire departments.

fdelvalle@valleystar.com