By Kim Hilsenbeck
Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett was placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday night following an executive session of the Kyle City Council.
City Manager Scott Sellers appointed an acting police chief to lead the Kyle Police Department “for the purposes of adjudicating an ongoing civil service matter.”
Sellers said, “Police Chief Jeff Barnett has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the conclusion of the matter,” according to a statement released by the city late Tuesday night.
In a phone interview Tuesday morning, Barnett said, “I’m not the subject of the matter at hand or the investigation.”
While the city would not discuss the details, the move to put Barnett on leave appears to be prompted by the ongoing investigation of a KPD sergeant, Jesse Espinoza.
On March 4, the Hays Free Press reported that Espinoza was under an internal affairs investigation. That was according to attorney James Doyle of Louisiana, who represents Dr. Glen Hurlston, the man who brought a civil rights violation lawsuit claiming abuse of power against Barnett, the city of Kyle and the city of Princeton, Barnett’s former employer.
Court documents show that Barnett was having an affair with Hurlston’s then-wife and the two have a child together.
According to Hurlston, Barnett orchestrated at least one of Hurlston’s 2012 arrests in Princeton.
Doyle complained that the city’s investigation of Espinoza was tantamount to witness tampering. Espinoza has been linked to Hurlston through previous communication and interaction. The two have vacationed together and Hurlston gifted $5,000 to Espinoza for the sergeant’s son’s cancer treatment.
Hurlston said Espinoza confirmed that Barnett set up at least one of Hurlston’s two arrests.
If Barnett is not the subject of an investigation against Espinoza, why put him on administrative leave?
“As additional clarification, under the Texas civil service statute, all personnel decisions must be completed by the department head. In order to ensure full and complete impartiality, the city manager has placed Chief Barnett on leave due to an ongoing civil service matter for which Chief Barnett is not the subject,” the statement from the city said.
That signals the city does not want Barnett in charge of Espinoza’s future employment with the city as it would create a conflict of interest. In essence, the city is removing any sense of impropriety that could arise by having Barnett make the final decision.
Sellers appointed Charles Edge, a former police chief with the Waxahachie Police Department, to the position of Acting Police Chief who will oversee the day-to-day operations of the police department until the matter with Espinoza is concluded.