Suspension upheld in former police officer complaint

An indefinite suspension ruling against a former Kyle Police officer was upheld March 2 after a hearing examiner determined he violated numerous city rules, codes and policies.

Jesse Espinoza

As a result, former Kyle police officer Jesse Espinoza has until March 12 to file an appeal, according to a city of Kyle press release.

The ruling, passed down by Hearing Examiner Dr. Paula Ann Hughes, was the result of a second hearing conducted on Espinoza’s indefinite suspension. The first hearing was conducted in 2015 but ended when M.B. Reynolds, the lead hearing examiner, passed away before rendering a decision.

Espinoza, who had served as a sergeant in the Kyle Police Department, was indefinitely suspended on May 15, 2015 by interim police chief Chuck Edge. The action was based on an investigation by an outside firm regarding complaints against Espinoza of “insubordination and untruthfulness” regarding his relationship with Glen Hurlston, a doctor from Louisiana.

Hughes upheld the suspension based on a “preponderance of evidence from the city.

She upheld the insubordination charge based on Espinoza’s “failure to obey direct orders” to produce various documents and failure to give complete responses to questions in the investigation.

According to the examiner’s report, Espinoza had “diatribes” regarding getting Jeff Barnett, Kyle Police Chief, fired, which had “no place in his responses.”

Espinoza appealed the indefinite suspension based on the fact the punishment was excessive. Espinoza claimed Barnett was untruthful in an official investigating of his misconduct, which had taken place after the city learned of his alleged affair with Hurlston’s wife, Suzanne.

Espinoza claimed an investigation should have been centered on Barnett, but the city chose to investigate him instead. Espinoza also claimed he complied with city officials regarding providing contact with Hurlston; the city claims he did not.

However, the city’s position was Espinoza aligned with Hurlston because he did not want Barnett to be the police chief. The city believed Espinoza wanted Joe Munoz, a longtime friend of his, to be the chief.

According to the report, the “assumed failure” of the city to follow up on Espinoza’s request to investigate the chief was not the subject of questions in the investigation.

“That may be the way he felt and feels, but the investigation was directed to him and not the chief,” according to the report. 

Additionally, the report upheld insubordination charges as Hughes felt Espinoza’s claim he couldn’t provide documents for $5,000 received from Hurlston was false.

Those monies went toward medical expenses for Espinoza’s son, according to the report. However, Hughes said in the report Espinoza justified not providing the documents as he “did not trust the city.”

Hughes said continued “patterns” of evasive answers in the investigation led her to uphold the charge of untruthfulness. 

Espinoza said several of the incidents brought up during the investigation occurred 180 days before his suspension. However, the city’s position was that while certain events occurred 180 days prior to the suspension, it showed a “pattern of inappropriate behavior on the part of Espinoza.”

Hughes said witnesses who testified for the investigation gave credible and concise testimony, which was not the case for Espinoza.

“He was not being suspended because of the events prior to the 180-day rule, but he was being suspended because he did not answer questions completely and truthfully in the investigation,” Hughes said in her report.

Hughes said Espinoza violated the city’s Code of Ethics because he acted “officiously” and allowed his personal feelings and animosities to influence his decisions.

That included allegations by the city regarding Espinoza spreading rumors with private citizens of an affair between former Kyle City Council member Samantha Bellows-LeMense and former Mayor Todd Webster.

Hughes said Espinoza was also in the wrong by providing a confidential memo to the media to be published, which held private and personal information of Barnett regarding the alleged affair.

According to the report, Hughes said if Espinoza believed his interpretation of the confidential memo was correct, there were “more appropriate ways to address his concerns.

Hughes also said Espinoza was “caught in a web of Hurlston’s anger and desire” to bring down Barnett, which led him to make “some poor choices and decisions.”

“For some reason, Espinoza felt he had rights and privileges he did not have,” Hughes said. “The City Council runs the city, not 1 policeman.”

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