Santa Maria police union votes ‘no confidence’ in SMPD chief

Chris Nartatez talks Friday about the Santa Maria Police Officers Association’s vote of “no confidence” in Police Chief Danny Macagni.

Len Wood

The Santa Maria Police Officers Association announced Friday it has no confidence in Police Chief Danny Macagni.

The union’s announcement came after a poll of its members, according to association President Chris Nartatez, who said 85 percent of the 93 ballots returned indicated no confidence in the chief.

Nartatez said 119 ballots had been mailed out to the association members.

The vote comes on the heels of the Jan. 28 officer-involved shooting that left Officer Albert Covarrubias Jr. dead. It was the second officer-involved shooting in the past three months.

In December, two officers were injured by shots from other officers during the attempted arrest of Samyr Ceballos, a Santa Maria gang member. Ceballos was killed in the exchange of fire with officers.

Nartatez said those two incidents weren’t alone in leading to the no-confidence vote.

“We’re not talking about one specific incident that led to this. This is not one

specific incident. This has been an ongoing thing. This has been going on for years. So we’re not going to detail a specific incident,” said

Nartatez, who was backed by approximately a dozen off-duty officers when he announced the results of the vote to the media Friday evening.

Nartatez said the chief has had a number of complaints, grievances and lawsuits filed against him over the years that have cost the city “hundreds of thousands of

dollars.”

The vote of no confidence is non-binding and holds no real clout, but Nartatez said he hopes the vote shows that the majority of the department lacks confidence in the chief.

“There’s been people out there and the city administration in the past, the City Council and mayor telling us there’s only a few disgruntled employees who are making the waves. I think this shows that it’s not just a few of us, it’s 85 percent of the POA membership that aren’t happy,” he said.

City Manager Rick

Haydon looked at the vote differently. He said the 79 members of the union who expressed no confidence in Macagni represent two-thirds of the total membership, not just those who returned ballots.

He also expressed his confidence in Macagni.

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“I have confidence in the chief and his ability to work through this crisis, and we are in a crisis,” said Haydon, who noted that the POA and the chief have had a strained relationship for many years.

Haydon also said the vote reinforces his decision to have an outside agency — the Office of Independent

Review — do an audit of the entire department. The civilian oversight committee was formed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to police the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The city manager said he would be sitting down soon with Mike Gennaco, an

attorney who leads the OIR, and stakeholders from all areas of the department.

Nartatez said he hopes Friday’s no-confidence vote sends a clear message.

“This isn’t binding. This is just telling the chief, the city administration, the mayor and the council how we feel,” he said.

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