Edinburg settles lawsuit with councilman over demotion

David White speaks to attendees after he is sworn in as an Edinburg council member at Edinburg City Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Nearly two years after former Edinburg police Chief David White alleged the city discriminated against him based on his race or age when they demoted him, the city agreed to settle the case in January.

As part the agreement reached with White, now a member of the city council, the city agreed to pay him a total of $62,500.

Of the total sum, $6,281 were for back wages while $30,000 were paid to White for mental anguish. The remaining $26,218 were for attorney’s fees and expenses.

In exchange for the payment, White agreed to drop the claims against the city, according to the agreement signed on Jan. 27.

“I’m not here to hurt the city or anything like that but I felt vindicated and I was happy with the amount,” White said. “Really, it’s just a little bit of self-vindication. I mean, I didn’t do anything wrong to be demoted.”

In the lawsuit, which White filed in May 2020, the former police chief accused the city of discriminating against him when then-City Manager Juan Guerra, who has since left the city, demoted him to lieutenant in November 2018.

Guerra demoted White after determining his performance was “unsatisfactory” based on public safety rankings found on websites like wallethub.com.

“Mr. White’s demotion was based on false reasons,” the lawsuit stated. “According to City Manager Juan Guerra, Mr. White was demoted due to low public safety rankings. These rankings were published on questionable websites.”

“Mr. Guerra also demoted Mr. White based on a ‘disconnect between leadership and staff as well as management’s ineffective use of resources to motivate and develop a functioning team,'” the lawsuit added.

White’s attorneys also pointed out that the city replaced him with Cesar Torres, a former patrol sergeant with the Texas Department of Public Safety who had been demoted from lieutenant “for ethical lapses in judgment.”

With Torres being younger than White and of Mexican-American descent, White accused the city of discriminating against him.

“The City of Edinburg, by and through Mr. Guerra, demoted Mr. White because he is Anglo/Caucasian and part of a protected class (age 53),” the lawsuit stated.

Torres was since fired and is now currently in the middle of his own legal battles with the city.

White said that in addition to being discriminatory, his demotion was “all politics” and spurred on because he wouldn’t cater to the people in power at the time.

But the city has changed since then, he said.

“The powers at the time, yes they had their own agenda,” White said. “I don’t feel that about my city right now but the powers at that time, yes.”

“I think we have a great, ethnically based city,” he added. “We try to take care of all the people not just one group.”

The city’s insurer, the Texas Municipal League-Intergovernmental Risk Pool, handled the case on behalf of the city.

When asked to comment on the settlement, the city issued the following statement:  “The city is aware that its insurer TML has reached an agreement on this matter.”