Edinburg chief to fight suspension

Edinburg Police Chief Cesar Torres (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

EDINBURG — The police chief here plans to fight a five-day suspension he received last month.

Edinburg interim City Manager Richard Hinojosa suspended Police Chief Cesar Torres for five days without pay based on three incidents, according to documents the Monitor obtained via a public information request.

In one instance, Torres allegedly investigated a claim against himself. In another, he allegedly sought a council member’s “blessing” to demote an assistant police chief, and in the third, he allegedly failed to tell city management about an assault investigation involving former city manager Juan Guerra.

Torres has disagreed with the disciplinary action taken against him since day one, and he reiterated his disapproval in a text message last week.

“I have retained an attorney and I am seeking an appeal as I did not violate any written policy of the City of Edinburg,” Torres wrote Tuesday, without naming his attorney. “That is all I can discuss at this time.”

But according to the “Police- Civil Service Action Form,” which outlined his alleged infractions, Torres violated “employee conduct rules 2, 3, and 29 and the Code of Ethics.”

“On or about December 10, 2019, Chief Cesar Torres was given a Lighthouse report in reference to an Edinburg Police Cadet reportedly saying he was admitted as a cadet because he had close, personal relationships with Chief Torres and then-Assistant Chief (Jay) Hernandez,” the form stated.

Torres was then instructed to have the police department investigate the allegations, but “rather than rely on an independent subordinate, Chief Torres investigated the allegations himself.”

The police chief later found that the claims against himself and Hernandez were “unsubstantiated and closed the investigation.”

Doing so was “unethical” because the investigation was “not impartial,” Hinojosa wrote in the Jan. 10 disciplinary form, adding it “should have been done by an independent subordinate.”

On Jan. 6, a council member told the interim city manager that Torres had called him to request the council member’s “blessing” to demote one of the assistant police chiefs. Hernandez was demoted in late December.

That call was also grounds for his suspension because “employees must not involve any council members in personnel issues,” the document stated.

That same day, a council member also told Hinojosa the police department received an assault report against Juan Guerra, the former city manager, and asked if the police department was investigating.

At the time, Guerra had not yet faced criminal charges for his alleged assault against his ex-fiance and former Edinburg Legislative Affairs Liaison, Miriam Cepeda.

“The report was assigned to an investigator the day after it was made and, according to Chief Torres, the investigator learned from Ms. Cepeda during a recorded interview that she wished to retract her report,” Hinojosa wrote in the disciplinary form.

But a lieutenant from the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office later contacted Torres to say he was investigating the incident and “to ask why Edinburg Police was not handling the case.”

Torres then scheduled a meeting with Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra to discuss the matter, the form stated.

“Throughout these events, Chief Torres failed to inform city management of the details of the case and failed to explain when and why the police department’s investigation closed,” the document read. “Given the involvement of the former city manager and the severity of the allegations, Chief Torres should have informed city management immediately.

“In addition, Chief Torres’ conduct has invited the perception that he and the police department have not been impartial in investigating the allegation.”

As a result of the three alleged infractions, Torres will “need to improve his management skill,” the form stated, and is “required to attend any and all police chief and management development trainings as directed by the city manager.”

Another violation could results in “censure, suspension, and disciplinary action including termination of employment.”