By Sahar Chmais
Former Hays County Chief of Staff Alex Villalobos resigned under the pretense of moving on to a better position – but this may not be the full story. Documents show that Villalobos has falsified time sheets and other negligent behavior.
Villalobos, who was hired as the Chief of Staff serving County Judge Ruben Becerra’s office, was eventually placed under direct supervision of the Commissioners Court in 2020.
“I believed this position would function better for the County and its residents if it reported to the entire Court,” Commissioner Lon Shell wrote to Hays County Human Resources Director Shari Miller, “though there were other factors that led to this decision. One of these factors was, in my opinion, a lack of diligence in managing potential conflicts of interest that could present liabilities to the residents of Hays County.”
Shell and Commissioner Walt Smith separately sent out a list of grievances about Villalobos’s work ethic and conflict of interest. For example, Villalobos videotaped an advertisement for a political campaign with the assistance of another county employee during business hours in the courthouse, Smith wrote to Miller.
On election day, Nov. 3, Villalobos stated he had worked eight hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. That same day, there is an image from the University Star of Villalobos barbecuing and the caption reads:
“Alex Villalobos, Hays County Sheriff 2020 candidate, camps outside of the polls on Election Day, Tues. Nov. 3, 2020, at the Hays County Government Center. Villalobos says his campaign team plans on being outside the polls until Election Day ends, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.” The image was taken by Vanessa Buentello.
A portion of Villalobos’s salary is used as justification for a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) the county receives. His time is kept for auditing purposes for this grant. But Villalobos failed to turn in his timesheets in a proper manner.
In Smith’s letter, he writes that according to the County Auditor’s office, Villalobos chose not to turn in or track the time needed to justify the grant for more than 10 months. His last submission had been April 22, 2020. Villalobos resigned in March of 2021.
“I fear this directly jeopardizes the county as to the continuation of this federal grant and if audited,” Smith wrote, “the hours which have been presented as credit for this funding would stand in direct conflict to the timesheets submitted for county use.”
Time sheets are not the only time Villalobos’s behavior proved worrisome to commissioners.
After the resignation of the County Emergency Services Director (ESD), Villalobos was asked to assist in the ESD hiring process. He created a scoring matrix to help evaluate the candidates. The purpose of this process was to evaluate candidates on eligibility and not based on names, to exclude any bias.
According to Smith, prior to the development of the scoring matrix and rewriting the job description, Villalobos received a resume from a possible candidate and allegedly the matrix was drafted to reflect the candidate’s resume and qualifications.
In commissioners court on Aug. 29, 2019, Villalobos was asked about whether he received a resume from the candidate and he stated he had not. In reviewing emails, Smith stated that “it appears obvious that Mr. Villalobos did receive the resume prior to producing the edited job description and the scoring matrix and used it to manipulate the process in favor of the candidate and in opposition to another, then lied to the court when these actions were uncovered.”
Past behavior has also caught up with Villalobos. Shortly after his appointment in 2019, Villalobos made a public comment stating he was on the Brady list for researching a piece of property, after a private resident who worked with Villalobos at Texas State University expressed concern with Villalobos’s record. The Brady list is a list of police employees whose involvement in a case undermines its integrity.
Smith submitted a public information request in regards to the matter and found that Villalobos was on the list because he used a law enforcement database to investigate individuals on his brother’s Federal racketeering charges.
At first, Villalobos denied the chart, according to Smith; only when he was presented with the evidence did Villalobos yield and confess.
Other issues were also discussed in the letters sent to Miller from commissioners Shell and Smith.
The Hays Free Press reached out to Villalobos for comment but he did not respond. Smith was also asked to comment and he said, “I do not comment on personnel issues.”
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