Former Police Chief Sues Alice, Texas

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CN) - A former police chief sued Alice, Texas, claiming the city manager fast-tracked his resignation and refused to pay his salary because the chief investigated allegations that a policeman sexually harassed and assaulted a reporter.
     Randy Allen Weems sued the City of Alice and its Interim City Manager Hector M. Hinojosa, in Federal Court.
     Alice is the seat of Jim Wells County in South Texas.
     Weems was the city's top cop from Feb. 18, 2013 to March 18 this year, he says in the lawsuit.
     Weems claims he got word in October 2013 that a local reporter had accused Alice police Lt. Luis Barrera of sexually harassing and assaulting her.
     In response, Weems says, he and then-City Manager Ray De Los Santos launched an internal investigation, and sought the help of the FBI, the Texas Rangers and the Texas Attorney General's Office.
     After De Los Santos confronted an Alice city councilman for publicly naming Barrera's alleged victim and calling her a liar, De Los Santos was fired, Weems says in the complaint.
     Hinojosa replaced De Los Santos on an interim basis.
     Weems claims that through the fall of 2013 he met frequently with FBI agents to help them in their criminal investigation of Barrera.
     Though the investigation was supposed to be confidential, Weems says, he realized someone in his department had leaked information to city officials when Hinojosa questioned him about his meeting with the FBI.
     Weems says that was just the beginning of Hinojosa's meddling with the investigation.
     After the Texas Department of Public Safety analyzed Barrera's office computer and iPhone, they sent a report to Weems, according to the complaint.
     "The report was in compact disc form and included 386,000 images and 38,000 Facebook posts from 2006 to 2013 recovered from Lieutenant Barrera's business computer hard drive and iPhone," the complaint states.
     It adds: "Chief Weems made a copy of the report with Interim City Manager Hector Hinojosa's and human resources director Diana Lopez's permission. While the copy was being made Chief Weems personally witnessed pornographic images being downloaded."
     Weems says he mailed the report to an investigator and left the only copy with Hinojosa.
     After Weems helped investigators set up an interview with Barrera, he claims, Hinojosa and the city attorney "berated (him) for scheduling the interview without first contacting them."
     Hinojosa then sent Weems a letter instructing him to take no further action in the investigation without his approval, the lawsuit states.
     "In a telephone call on or about March 5, 2014, the victim asked Chief Weems if the draft report from the Lieutenant Barrera investigation had been published," the complaint states. "Chief Weems refused to comment on the report and asked her how she knew about that. The victim reluctantly admitted that interim city manager Hector Hinojosa told her boss, who is owner of a newspaper, about the report. This means interim city manager Hector Hinojosa leaked information relating to an internal investigation to the press."
     Fed up with Hinojosa's meddling, Weems claims, he told the mayor on the morning of March 18 he was "submitting his resignation to be effective June 1, 2014."
     Weems says that that afternoon Hinojosa made his resignation effective immediately.
     "The accelerated resignation stipulated that Chief Weems would be resigning in good standing and be paid all accrued benefits," the complaint states.
     But Weems says that after he cleaned out his office, he got a letter from Hinojosa demanding return of the Texas Department of Public Safety report, and stating that his unpaid salary was being withheld.
     A mystified Weems says the last time he saw the report was when he left it with Hinojosa.
     Weems claims that Hinojosa is retaliating against him for helping with the investigation into Barrera: a violation of federal law.
     He seeks payment of his accrued vacation and sick time and withheld salary.
     He is represented by Eric Stewart with Huseman & Stewart of Corpus Christi.
     Alice city officials did not respond to a request for comment.