HIDALGO — The city council fired police chief Rodolfo “Rudy” Espinoza Monday night, but did not confirm the action taken against him until Tuesday, when the city manager sent Espinoza an official termination letter.
Espinoza’s termination is “effective immediately” as of Jan. 8, according to the letter City Manager Julian Gonzalez sent Espinoza.
The letter cited the now-former chief’s Dec. 27 arrest by the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office on a Class A misdemeanor charge of assault causing bodily injury to a family member, calling it “a violation of certain provisions of the employment contract.”
Hidalgo Mayor Sergio Coronado said Tuesday the decision to fire the chief was “made in the best interest of the city of Hidalgo … we have a responsibility to protect the integrity of our community, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Interim Chief Jesus Ortega, who was promoted from lieutenant in October after the council initially suspended Espinoza, will remain in that role, Coronado said. The council will decide “what route we’re going to take” with regard to hiring a permanent chief at its next regular meeting on Jan. 22, the mayor added.
The city’s investigation into “allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct and potential conflict of interests,” which resulted in his Oct. 16 suspension, remains unknown.
Espinoza, who had served as chief since 2012, denied the domestic violence allegations against him during a press conference his lawyers held last week. His lawyers said his girlfriend, who he allegedly grabbed by the neck and pinned against a wall and a sofa, also denies Espinoza assaulted her.
When reached for comment Tuesday, Espinoza’s attorney, Alex Guajardo, said he “is trying to see what the issue is regarding the termination,” noting that an arrest “is not in any way a determination or finality of criminality.” Guajardo said the district attorney’s office has yet to decide whether it will prosecute the sheriff’s office’s case against his client.