By Moses Leos III
The arbitration hearing into the suspension of a fired Kyle Police sergeant is expected to continue this week.
Former Kyle Police Department sergeant Jesse Espinoza is appealing his indefinite suspension; he was terminated by interim Kyle Police Chief Chuck Edge in May following a city investigation completed by an outside firm.
The investigation, which was brought up by the city’s lead attorney in their opening argument, contends Espinoza had engaged in acts of misconduct, including insubordination and untruthfulness. The investigation included Espinoza’s relationship with Glen Hurlston, a doctor from Louisiana, who filed a civil rights lawsuit against Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett, the city and Barnett’s former employer, the Princeton Police Department in January 2014.
According to the city’s lead attorney in the case, former Kyle City Attorney Ken Johnson and City Manager Lanny Lambert had instructed city employees in two separate memos to relay the amount of contact they had with Hurlston following the submittal of his lawsuit.
Espinoza claimed his only contact with Hurlston came prior to 2014. However, the investigation claimed the contact was “long running and more than occasional,” saying that Espinoza did not tell the city manager and attorney the extent of his contact with Hurlston. The “non-response” to the city manager and attorney was found to be “insubordinate.”
In reviewing Hurlston’s deposition, the city attorney said Hurlston had referenced Espinoza several times. Hurlston said in his deposition that Espinoza was an “excellent source of information.”
The lead attorney also said Espinoza had a run-in with Kyle Assistant City Manager James Earp; the investigation claims Espinoza tried to convince Earp to reinvestigate allegations against Barnett.
An investigation had been previously conducted by the city in 2012 stemming from Barnett’s alleged extramarital affair with Hurlston’s wife, Suzanne. She claimed Barnett is the father of her child.
Investigators also brought up confrontations Espinoza had with Mayor Todd Webster and current Mayor Pro Tem David Wilson.
The attorney argued Tuesday that Espinoza engaged in a conspiracy to gather information to pressure city officials to fire Barnett. They said Espinoza had his own personal reasons to fire Barnett, claiming he preferred his friend, Joe Muñoz, to be chief, with Espinoza as second in command.
“Espinoza acted as an ally and a mole for Hurlston, and improperly provided Hurlston with information to try and terminate Barnett,” the lead attorney said.
Grant Goodwin, Espinoza’s attorney with the Combined Law Enforcement Asscoation of Texas (CLEAT), argued that a large amount of the incidents the city’s investigative teams described are “well outside of the 180 days we would take action on.”
“In this situation, we have managed to resurrect these past ghosts … on events past 180 days,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin’s argument revolved around the city’s 2012 investigation, which he said was “cursory at best” and consisted of only two pages. Goodwin referred to an email that was attached to the investigation by Lambert which said he no longer felt his investigation “will suffice against escalating attacks” and that “another investigation was needed.”
Goodwin said Espinoza’s actions were taken “because he sought to discredit what he believes to be a lying chief” in Barnett, and that he was only trying to fix the department.
“That’s what he was trying to do before the firestorm of this investigation was brought upon him,” Goodwin said.
He said Espinoza didn’t have any intentions of helping Hurlston, but that he took information and provided it to the city.
Because Espinoza purportedly took the information to the city, he has since been placed on the Brady List by District Attorney Wes Mau. The Brady List disallows public servants to testify in court if they cannot be trusted to tell the truth.
Goodwin claims the city “failed to do their job” in 2012 and that if they did, Espinoza wouldn’t have been fired.
“If the city had done what they’re supposed to do in investigating Barnett, if they were diligent … if they had done anything into if Barnett told the truth, they would have found out Barnett would be on the Brady List,” Goodwin said.
CORRECTION: In our earlier edition, we attributed information about the investigation to investigators in the case. It was the city’s lead attorney in the case that was presenting information at that time. We apologize for the error.