Judge’s ruling gives Alamo green light to fire police chief

Board of commissioners to discuss termination Monday

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)

EDINBURG — A district judge sided Friday with the city of Alamo and dismissed the police chief’s claim that the city violated various state laws when it attempted to fire him last year.

State District Judge Marla Cuellar granted the city’s plea to the jurisdiction, in effect finding that Police Chief Baudelio Castillo failed to present grounds for why his case met the criteria needed to waive the city’s sovereign immunity, specifically that he neither began nor exhausted the city’s grievance or appeal procedures before filing the lawsuit.

His attorney, however, argued that the city has no such grievance procedure in place.

Castillo filed a lawsuit in December 2018 seeking a temporary restraining order against various city officials after the board of commissioners sought to discuss his termination at a Dec. 17, 2018 meeting. He alleged that City Manager Luciano Ozuna Jr., Mayor Diana Martinez and Commissioner Robert De La Garza were seeking his ouster as retaliation for his investigations into city employee misconduct.

State District Judge Keno Vasquez signed the TRO, thereby preventing the commission from taking action until the issue was resolved in court.

Cuellar’s ruling, however, gave the city the go-ahead to discuss terminating the chief, which the commission will do in a specially called meeting Monday in which commissioners will consider “action regarding the designating, appointment and/or removal of the Chief of Police” and appointing an interim chief, according to the agenda, which was posted Friday evening.

Castillo said he respected Cuellar’s ruling and needs to discuss his next steps with his attorney.

When asked if he was worried about his future with the city, he said, “I’m never worried. Nothing’s forever and it’s up to the commission if they think I’m not doing a good job as chief.”

One of the investigations Castillo undertook involved former Sergeant Rodney Guerra, who the chief accused of attempting to steal a pair of sunglasses from the department’s evidence room.

A grand jury failed to indict Guerra on the tampering felony and the district attorney’s office declined to prosecute him on the misdemeanor theft charge, according to Guerra’s attorney Jesse Villalobos.

Castillo said Friday he still stands by his decision to investigate and file charges against Guerra.

“If the (tampering) case had been allowed to go before a jury, we would have had a conviction,” Castillo said, citing his 30 years of experience with investigations.

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