DEL NORTE- Emotions were palpable in the meeting room located at the Del Norte Town Hall Wednesday, Jan. 8, as residents, guests, family members and business owners gathered for the monthly Del Norte Town Board meeting.
As temperatures dropped outside, the feelings of those in attendance to show support for Police Chief Robert Fresquez set the stage for an emotional goodbye as the chief prepared to give his final speech to the board that chose not to renew his employment contract.
According to Fresquez, he and his family came to a final decision in light of the news that his contract with the Town of Del Norte was not to be renewed. He would follow the advice of their lawyer and resign from a 32 year career in law enforcement, most of which was spent in the Town of Del Norte. “I cannot speak to the agreement that was made between myself and the town but it was in the best interest for me and my family, as well as, my future career in law enforcement to resign and so that is what I am here to do,” said Fresquez.
The meeting began with the approval of the minutes from previous meetings before Mayor Chris Trujillo opened the floor for the public comment period. At this time a former law enforcement official and Del Norte Resident Lyle Tuoti took a moment to speak. “I know Robert and Frank Archuleta have spent a lot of time working without being paid and I watched these guys put in 16 hour days. I would beg, plead with them to take a break. Tell them you’re sick. Tell them you’re exhausted. But every time I did, both of them would say that they just couldn’t do that and that their community needed them. I am a bit appalled and embarrassed that they didn’t get any compensation for that,” stated Tuoti.
He continued, “The amount of time and effort that these gentlemen put in for you? To keep you protected. For them not to be compensated for what they did. I am mad at this board for not paying these gentlemen for what they are worth especially when they were doing it for you. It’s not too late for you to compensate these men for the time and efforts they put forward away from their families for this community.”
It was at that time that Mayor Trujillo cut Tuoti off and moved forward with the meeting after a brief comment by board member Sam Scavo that the board had made an agreement to compensate for some of the hours in question during an executive session held in a previous meeting. Trujillo did not allow for any further public comment.
During the next portion of the agenda, which was the approval of the consent agenda and after a progress report made by Officer Frank Archuleta, Police Chief Fresquez stood up and addressed the board.
“This is the hardest thing that I have ever had to do. I put in service here for 32 years, and this is the way that I am going to be treated? I at least deserve the respect to be able to say something. I turned in my resignation, signed the agreement and you received that, but this is not how I wanted to get out. This town is changing, projects going on in this town that two officers had to take care of. I have come to meetings countless times asking for additional officers and the reason I get for not renewing my employment is that I can’t find more officers but there are no officers. Departments across the state are struggling to find officers right now.”
“Last thing I heard from you as a board was that it was time for change, and you know what, maybe it is. I will move forward. I will continue in law enforcement because it is in my blood. I hope you have a plan in place for the future. When I was presented with the agreement to resign, my heart just sank. I dedicated my whole entire life to this community. If I had been doing something wrong, I would have loved to have been told that. I did nothing wrong. I came to do something that is just going to kill me, this right here is the worst thing that I will do. But you know what? It is not forever.”
Chief Fresquez handed his badge over to town Manager Bernadette Martinez and pleaded with the board to choose his replacement carefully. “This community needs you to choose the right person. Please do not choose the wrong person.”
Audience members at that point gave a standing ovation to Fresquez and began to speak out about not wanting to see the chief leave, how much the community is in need of law enforcement officials, all of which was ignored by the board who moved on to the next item of the agenda.
In a statement made later Town Manager Bernadette Martinez stated, “It is always hard for everyone when any employee who has been with their current employment for so many years to accept change and change sometimes is for the best interest of all. I personally accepted the resignation and accepted the fact that he closed this chapter in his life and he wanted to try something new and reach new goals. And he did this with no regrets, as he stated in his letter of resignation. Robert’s dedication and commitment was never unnoticed as those attending Wednesday’s night Town Board meeting may have thought it did.”
There will be a dinner and honor ceremony held for Fresquez on Saturday, Jan. 18, at 4 p.m. at the Gateway Church in Del Norte. Fresquez will be recognized for his many years of service and the event is open to the public. Those who are planning to attend are asked to bring a dish to share with everyone and to RSVP via text to 719-849-8506.