By Andy Sevilla
A Kyle police sergeant is on paid administrative leave while an outside law firm investigates allegations of misconduct stemming from a relationship with a Louisiana doctor suing the city and its police chief.
And while city officials have kept quiet on the details behind the suspension, a Feb. 3 memorandum outlining Sgt. Jesse Espinoza’s administrative leave obtained through an open records request reveals he signed the agreement with much hesitation.
Next to Espinoza’s signature confirming receipt of the memo ordering his leave and outlining his restrictions, the words “under duress” are seen handwritten on the document. The time written on the document was 7:25 p.m.
When asked for comment on his administrative leave or on his relationship with Dr. Glen Hurlston — who has an active federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Kyle and Police Chief Jeff Barnett — Espinoza said last week he has been forbidden from discussing the matter.
The memo, obtained by the Hays Free Press March 10, states Espinoza is ordered not to discuss or communicate any details of the investigation with anyone.
“The confidentiality of this investigation must be maintained,” the memo said. “You are ordered not to discuss or communicate any details of this investigation with anyone other than me [Assistant City Manager James Earp] or Mr. Patton [the city’s investigator, Alan Patton].
Patton is an independent investigative consultant with Lynn, Ross, Gannaway and Cranford, LLP out of Fort Worth, according to the memo.
While the Kyle City Council deliberated Espinoza’s suspension in executive session on Feb. 3, Hurlston was texting with a Hays Free Press reporter regarding Espinoza’s situation. The first text came in after 9 p.m., nearly two hours after Espinoza signed the suspension memo ordering him to maintain confidentiality.
“I hear they are going after Jessie,” he wrote. “I received a call I’m not sure but they want his private phone records. He’s in a meeting.”
Earp told the Hays Free Press last week he could not comment on Espinoza’s leave as it is an ongoing investigation and a personnel matter.
Espinoza’s paid leave calls for a complete stripping of his duties as a Kyle police sergeant while the investigation is ongoing, as well as a temporary relinquishment of his badge, keys, city equipment and weapon, according to the memo. He is also forbidden from setting foot at Kyle City Hall or the police department, unless it is part of the investigation.
The memo also states that Espinoza is expected to remain at his home from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and be available by phone in order to cooperate with the investigation.
That investigation stems from trips Espinoza took with Hurlston, including a trip to Destin, Florida, last summer where Hurlston paid for a beach house Espinoza and his family used, along with Hurlston and other friends.
Hurlston also paid $5,000 in medical bills for Espinoza’s son’s chemotherapy.
Hurlston told the Hays Free Press his $5,000 payment was a gift to Espinoza for his son, and not a payment of any sort for anything.
Hurlston’s federal suit stems from an affair Barnett was having with the doctor’s at the time wife, Suzanne Hurlston. Glen Hurlston alleges Barnett orchestrated Hurlston’s arrests in a town where Barnett once served as a police chief.
Hurlston’s lawyer, James Doyle from Louisiana, alleges that Barnett falsified his application to the city of Kyle by saying he was still employed by the city of Princeton. Doyle said Barnett resigned more than eight months prior to applying for the Kyle position.
Barnett left his post in Princeton about nine months before Hurlston was arrested on a felony assault charge for allegedly choking his then-wife. Ultimately, Hurlston pleaded no contest to a lesser charge.
Hurlston said since his arrest he and Espinoza became friends over the phone. Not long after filing his suit, Hurlston said Espinoza confirmed that Barnett set up his arrest. Hurlston said two officers, who were not identified to Hays Free Press, approached Espinoza and told him Barnett asked them to look for active Texas warrants out on Hurlston, who had plans to visit Kyle in the 2012 summer.
Hurlston decided against visiting Kyle, but was later arrested in Princeton for excessive texting to Suzanne. That charge was later dropped as part of the plea bargain on his first arrest.