The city of Pharr has responded to a lawsuit filed by its former chief alleging he was demoted as top cop for refusing to turn over an investigative report into the misuse of public funds to the interim city manager.
In response to the lawsuit filed Wednesday, attorneys representing the city say it generally denies all of the allegations and says the city asserts government immunity from the lawsuit.
“Defendant hereby asserts the affirmative defense of government immunity from all state or common law causes of action asserted by Plaintiff, including any claims of punitive or exemplary damages. This defense of government immunity encompasses the Defendant’s immunity from suit, as well as immunity from liability. Further, with regard to those causes of action over which Defendent has an immunity from suit, the Court is without subject matter jurisdiction,” the city says in its response.
The city of Pharr previously declined to comment, saying it does not comment on pending litigation.
Jose A. Luengo, who was demoted to lieutenant on July 2, filed the whistleblower lawsuit on Aug. 31, alleging interim City Manager Ed Wylie removed him as chief in retaliation for refusing the return over the report. Luengo says he went to the Texas Rangers, alleging Wylie violated a law regarding the misuse of official information.
Documents obtained through a public information act request reveal that on May 8 a Pharr city employee instructed an officer investigating the misuse of public funds to turn over a report into an ongoing investigation.
“The Investigator refused the instruction because one of the persons included in the investigation was a close family member of the employee,” the lawsuit states.
It’s not immediately clear what the alleged familial relationship is.
That investigation regards 60-year-old San Juan resident Homero Villarreal, who was arrested on June 26 and charged with theft, more than $30,000 but less than $150,000.
Pharr police allege Villarreal stole about $108,000 from the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district over a three-year period through the unauthorized use of 219 purchase orders.
Wylie suspended Luengo for three days on May 8 and a string of text messages obtained by The Monitor shows Wylie told Luengo he violated an order from a superior, which was the reason for his suspension.
By July 2, Wylie recommended Luengo’s removal as chief and in a news release, the city says Wylie reassigned Luengo as the city decided to go in a different direction.
Ten days later, Pharr appointed its new chief, Andrew “Andy” Harvey Jr.
Hearings in the case haven’t yet been scheduled, court records show.