Judge’s order bars Alamo from firing police chief

Alamo Police Chief Baudelio Castillo stands beside a truck seized during a drug bust made by the department's new K-9 unit Aug. 22, 2018. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

A state district court judge granted a temporary injunction Friday afternoon that momentarily prohibits the Alamo City Commission from firing police Chief Baudelio Castillo.

Castillo sued the city last month, requesting a temporary restraining order to stop the Alamo City Commission from firing him at its regularly scheduled meeting held Tuesday, Dec. 18. Prior to the meeting, District Judge Keno Vasquez granted the order, restraining the city commission from discussing the chief’s employment or appointing an interim in his place.

At a hearing on the application for a restraining order held Wednesday, Castillo and Alamo City Manager Luciano Ozuna, Jr. provided testimony. The hearing was bumped from Dec. 28, the originally scheduled date, due to the shortage of a court reporter needed to officially document the proceedings.

“I’m very happy with the judge’s decision. We are going to continue working for the positive, betterment of our community,” Castillo said.

Castillo, who the city commission hired in February 2018, “began to notice retaliatory acts” against him after he “started investigations involving city employees and officials,” according to an affidavit submitted as part of the lawsuit.

“All we are doing is investigating cases and providing the best service to our community,” Castillo said.

In the lawsuit, Castillo accused the city manager, Mayor Diana Martinez and Commissioner Robert De La Garza of retaliating against him for the investigations, one having led to the arrest of former executive City Secretary Crystal Garza, accused of leaking police information to drug dealers. The Alamo Police Department arrested the city secretary in July on an engaging in organized criminal activity charge.

In an internal memo labeled “confidential” and addressed to the city manager, Castillo detailed a list of cases under investigation by the Alamo Police Department, including an active unlawful carrying of a weapons case into Commissioner De La Garza, accused of turning in now fired Sgt. Rodney Guerra’s department-issued handgun to the Alamo Police Department. Alamo police arrested the sergeant in October on a misdemeanor theft charge, accusing him of taking a pair of $250 prescription Ray Ban glasses an officer found in a police unit. Guerra’s attorney has since alleged the charge brought against his client is political in nature.

Castillo also stated in the memo addressed to the city manager, his boss, that “city funds” may have been misappropriated to former City Attorney Damian Orozco, who also represented former Alamo Municipal Court Clerk Cris Gomez in a divorce hearing.

The “allegation is that former city Attorney Damian Orozco was compensated with city funds by your office and your approval,” Castillo wrote in the “confidential” memo released publically as an exhibit in the lawsuit.

The agenda item surrounding Castillo’s employment was placed on a city commission agenda the day after the memo was “drafted” Dec. 14, according to Castillo’s affidavit, which further notes the city manager “usually consults” with the Mayor Martinez and Commission De La Garza about items added to agendas.

The Alamo City Commission was served with the temporary restraining order prior to its meeting held Dec. 18, preventing commissioners from discussing the item involving Castillo’s employment that evening.

Following testimony at a hearing Wednesday, state District Judge Noe Gonzalez requested Castillo’s attorney Francisco J. Rodriguez and the city’s attorney provide additional case law by Friday morning. Gonzalez then issued a temporary injunction.

The attorney representing the city, J. Arnold Aguilar, submitted a document Friday afternoon, requesting Gonzalez provide fact and law used to grant the temporary injunction. Aguilar noted the judge “did not indicate the duration” of the injunction temporarily barring the city from firing Castillo.

The Alamo City Commission may discuss the lawsuit — alleging retaliation by some of its members and the city manager — during executive session at a special meeting scheduled for Tuesday. Texas law allows governmental bodies to discuss pending litigation behind closed doors.

In the lawsuit, Castillo seeks monetary relief and a final resolution.

A trial date is scheduled for March 4.