Fewer than six weeks on the job, Gilroy's interim fire chief resigned Monday morning after he was arrested Sept. 7 for furnishing alcohol to a 20-year-old decoy as a part of an undercover sting by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department.
Roger Bloom, 52 of Fremont, was arrested and released with a citation in front of Pleasure Point Liquor and Grocery on the corner of Portola Drive and 41st Street in Santa Cruz Friday night, after he bought beer for a male decoy who approached him in front of the store, according to deputy April Skalland.
City Administrator Tom Haglund said Bloom stepped down from his position as the recently hired interim fire chief, saying that he appeared "deeply remorseful and troubled by what occurred."
"This is a type of lapse of judgment that we can’t tolerate as an organization. The Gilroy Fire Department provides an important service to the community and we need to make sure the leaders of the department are held to the highest standard both on and off duty," Haglund said.
As for what to do next, Haglund said he has a lot of decisions to make in the coming days. The search for an interim fire chief is back on, and in the meantime, Haglund said Police Chief Denise Turner will lead the department.
Haglund expressed regret for the incident.
“I take these matters very seriously. The hiring of the staff is my responsibility as the city manager. And I take that very seriously,” he said.
Haglund said that the city performed an "extensive background check" on Bloom and he had no prior arrest record.
Bloom was one of seven people arrested Friday in Santa Cruz as part of the undercover sting, Skalland said. Bloom was in no way “targeted” by the sheriff's department, and was arrested without incident, she said.
According to California Penal Code, “Furnishing alcohol to a minor” is a misdemeanor that includes providing, selling or giving alcohol to a person under the age of 21. Bloom could have to pay fines, complete community service and serve up to six months in jail. Skalland would not say if Bloom accepted any money from the minor for whom he bought beer.
Calls to the Gilroy Fire Department were not returned as of press time.
Councilman Peter Leroe-Munoz said that Bloom did the right thing by stepping down.
“Roger was smart enough to recognize he did something wrong, and that taking responsibility was the right thing to do. There are consequences for our actions, and as a public leader, there are very real consequences,” Leroe-Munoz said.
Leroe-Munoz said that selling alcohol to a minor is the type of crime that indicates something serious about a person’s character.
“Something like this, where you have an opportunity to think about what you are doing, and then to go ahead and do it anyways - that to me is very serious,” he said.
Councilman Perry Woodward said, without getting the chance to know Bloom, this “extraordinary” event came as a shock, judging by his track record at the Palo Alto Fire Department, the glowing recommendations he came to Gilroy with.
“I expected this to be a short-term assignment for him, but I didn't expect to be talking to the media four weeks later about him resigning under a cloud,” Woodward said.
Selling alcohol to a minor is a big deal for anyone, he said, but in Bloom’s position, the crime runs deeper.
“Given the nature of the work he has done over the course of his career, one can assume he has been to many calls where someone has been hurt as a consequence of minors consuming alcohol,” Woodward said.
Councilman Bob Dillon didn’t hesitate when he called Bloom’s conduct “pretty idiotic.”
“At least he resigned so we didn’t have to fire him,” Dillon said. “How dumb can you get though.”
Mayor Al Pinheiro echoed the opinions of Dillon, Woodward and Leroe-Munoz.
“It’s an unfortunate incident, however our leaders must be held to the highest of standards and Roger should be no exception,” Al Pinheiro wrote in an email.
Bloom replaced Chief Dale Foster in August, after maintaining a “respected” 22-year career in the Palo Alto Fire Department, Haglund said. He began July 30 with a monthly salary of $14,525.
Bloom holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration from San Diego State University. In Palo Alto, he worked in a multitude of positions for the fire department, ending his tenure as the Chief of Operations.
His resignation is immediate.