By Kim Hilsenbeck
After more than three months of being on paid administrative leave, Kyle Police Sergeant Jesse Espinoza was put on indefinite suspension, according to John Moritz, spokesperson of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT). An indefinite suspension is synonymous with being terminated.
Espinoza was under investigation though Kyle city officials would not reveal the nature of the probe. Sources inside the city indicated the investigation was related to Espinoza’s relationship with Dr. Glen Hurlston, the Louisiana doctor who filed a civil rights lawsuit against Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett, the city and Barnett’s former employer.
Kyle officials placed Espinoza on paid leave Feb. 3. During that time, he was under a gag order to not discuss the case with anyone. His wife, Edna, said in a phone interview in April that her husband was also forbidden from working at his second job, which involves security for a hospital. She said the financial burden was hard on the family.
Barnett was temporarily put on paid leave, ostensibly so as not to be involved with whatever decision would be made about Espinoza at the conclusion of his investigation.
Kyle City Manager Scott Sellers appointed an acting chief. Barnett will reportedly return to work later this week.
A lawyer involved with the case said Espinoza was called into acting Kyle Police Chief Charles Edge’s office Friday morning but not fired. He was then summoned again Friday afternoon. That’s when Edge terminated Espinoza.
Sources close to the investigation said Espinoza was fired for insubordination and being untruthful. There is apparently a 28-page report with the findings from the city’s investigation, which was conducted by a Dallas area law firm. The Hays Free Press has requested that document.
Hurlston said Barnett used that same law firm when he initiated an investigation of a police officer in Princeton, TX, where he was then police chief.
City officials have been relatively mum on the subject of Espinoza’s termination, the investigation and anything related to the case.
In a written response Monday, city spokesperson Jerry Hendrix said, “We have no comment because Mr. Espinoza likely will file an appeal of his indefinite suspension. As it is Mr. Espinoza’s right to have an appeal hearing, the City has no comment at this time so as not to affect the integrity of the process.”
Espinoza, who spoke with the Hays Free Press Monday evening said, “I’m glad it’s over.”
Espinoza is unable to work at the other job because while he is still a licensed peace officer, an officer must be commissioned by an agency or entity.
Lawyers from CLEAT confirmed on Friday they plan to appeal the decision to fire Espinoza. According to Espinoza, he has 10 days to decide but he and his legal team seem determined to move forward.
“CLEAT has every intention to appeal the action taken by the city and we are confident that a fair and impartial appeals process will result in Sgt. Espinoza being returned to work on behalf of the people of Kyle,” said Moritz said in a statement Friday.