BOSQUE FARMS — On a 3-0 vote, the Bosque Farms village council discharged the chief of police from his position during a special meeting Tuesday night.
Councilor Bryan Burks made the motion, with a second from Councilor Ronita Wood; they and Councilor Rick Goshorn voted in favor of firing Chief Paul Linson. Councilor Bill Kennedy was not at the meeting.
More than a dozen village residents and police officers attended the meeting, speaking highly of Linson and the improvements they say he’s made to the department.
Linson started as a patrolman with the department in 2014 and worked his way up the ranks, until he was appointed chief in October 2018.
Officer Joe Harris said Linson has dedicated his entire life to helping others.
“He put the department first and foremost, and provided the village and Peralta with the best service possible,” Harris said. “The only reason we have the officers we do now is because of Paul.”
When Sgt. Marilyn Rodriguez heard Linson was going to be terminated, she tendered her resignation.
“My dedication to our department and this village is because of the phenomenal leader that Paul Linson is,” Rodriguez said. “He has created a department of diversity, progress and proactivity. I am very appalled at the way he is being let go. He didn’t get to say goodbye to the department he built.”
Village resident Shoshana Avrishon said she’s lived in Bosque Farms since 2004.
“I’ve seen a lot of chiefs and officers come and go, and we’ve never had this quality of a department before,” Avrishon said. “When I have issues, even with another officer, the chief always addresses them and listens to me.”
Several of the residents accused the village and council of corruption. In an interview after the meeting, Mayor Russ Walkup said the village has always been as open and transparent as it can be.
“When it’s a personnel matter, we cannot disclose what was discussed in executive session,” the mayor said. “I understand their unhappiness. I’ve sat in the audience and been frustrated not knowing everything that was going on behind the decisions.
“I hope they understand the governing body is doing what they think is best, right, for the village. Personnel decisions are never, ever, ever taken lightly.”
Linson said until he met with Walkup and village Clerk/Administrator Gayle Jones on Monday, June 22, he had no indication there was a problem.
“The mayor told me he knew this would be a punch in the gut, but he wanted to make some changes at the top,” Linson said. “He told me I was no longer going to be the chief.”
Linson said he asked for a reason several times but wasn’t given one. He also asked if he had the option to resign and indicated the mayor said he did.
“He still didn’t give a reason. I don’t feel like I had any reason to resign. I did nothing wrong, did nothing to be fired,” he said.
Linson said by Tuesday he had turned in all his department-issued equipment, cleared out his office of personal belongings and was escorted out of the building by interim chief Andrew Owen.
“To this date, I still don’t know why,” Linson said.
Walkup said because the chief’s firing was a personnel matter, he couldn’t comment. Under state law, municipal police chiefs, as well as clerks, administrators and treasurers, serve at the pleasure of the mayor.
“That’s the unfortunate truth about those positions,” Walkup said. “That’s why every year, they have to be ratified by the council.
“I will say to the residents, this is on me. It was the mayor’s decision; it was a tough decision that I did not come to lightly.”
The mayor said the council wants the now-vacant position opened up and a search done for the next chief.
“We will search for the best candidate,” he said. “We will take as much time as we need.”
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.