Interim Vallejo Police Chief Jason Ta has been removed from consideration for the police chief job in Salinas, Calif., according to officials in that city.  

Rather than announcing Ta’s hiring, as expected, Salinas Interim City Manager Jim Pia said in a statement Tuesday that the city will soon start a new search to fill the police chief vacancy. 

Open Vallejo reported last week that Ta had accepted the police chief job in Salinas, a city of 163,000 people in Monterey County. A source with knowledge of the matter characterized the hiring as all but a done deal but for a standard background check. 

“At this time, however, the initial search has concluded without a selection,” Pia said in the statement. “As a result, the City of Salinas will soon begin a new recruitment.”

Salinas has been diligently searching for a new chief, the statement read, since the January departure of Roberto Filice, who now leads the East Bay Regional Park District. 

Ta did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A former deputy chief in Vallejo, he took over for Police Chief Shawny Williams, who resigned in November 2022. Earlier that same year, Ta allegedly arrived at a homicide scene exhibiting the strong odor of alcohol, according to an internal memo obtained by Open Vallejo.

Some in Salinas expressed concern about the police chief search during a city council meeting on Tuesday night. Propped up against a chair during public comment was a hand-drawn cardboard sign: “Vallejo PD corruption out of Salinas.”

Kelly McMillin, a former Salinas police chief, said he was hired for the role in 2012 following an “extensive” and “very public” national search that included a public forum with top candidates. 

“The appointment of a police chief is one of the most crucial decisions a city manager can make,” McMillan said. “That this current selection process is occurring almost entirely out of the public eye seems to contradict the principals of open government and transparency we’ve all come to expect from our elected leaders.”

Ta’s reversal of fortune comes amid a period of instability for the Vallejo Police Department, which is facing a consent decree after Attorney General Rob Bonta sued the agency last October.

Last week, Oakland police arrested a Vallejo officer, Ronald Dupree, on suspicion of three domestic violence-related felonies. He was released the following night and has yet to face formal charges. The San Jose Mercury News subsequently reported that the alleged victim told Oakland police that she reported Dupree to Vallejo police and later received an anonymous text message that read, “I hope calling Ronnie job finally ran him away from you” and “you should’ve died a long time ago.”

Sophia Rome, public information officer for Salinas, said she could not confirm Ta’s involvement in the city’s police chief search because the hiring process is confidential. 

Neither Rome nor Pia provided a reason for starting a new recruitment process. 

“I’ve determined that we will begin anew not because people weren’t qualified necessarily, but in terms of the totality of the circumstances, I judged that we need to move forward with a brand new recruitment and start again,” Pia told KSBW, which first reported the news.

The Salinas City Council also scheduled a closed session to discuss the appointment of a permanent city manager following Tuesday’s regular city council meeting, according to the meeting agenda.

Anna Bauman is an investigative reporter with Open Vallejo.