Dispute between Edinburg, police chief heads to federal court

Edinburg Police Chief Cesar Torres did not have his day in court Monday morning.

Torres, who remains on administrative leave with pay, was scheduled to appear in the 139th state District Court for a hearing over a temporary restraining order prohibiting the city from firing him until the conclusion of an apparent FBI investigation into an officer over insurance fraud allegations.

(Read: From politics to a pop concert: How the rift between Edinburg and its police chief widened)

In last-minute legal maneuvering Sunday, the city of Edinburg had that lawsuit and another that Torres filed late last week removed to federal court.

City Manager Ron Garza recommended on April 29 that Torres be fired in part because of an April 7 arbitrator’s ruling that he discriminated against two police officers for union membership activity, along with what Garza called other failings in Torres’ leadership and management.

(Read: Cesar Torres Timeline)

Garza had placed Torres on administrative leave on April 12 after the chief refused to resign and declined to accept a severance package for his resignation, and the city manager on April 29 provided Torres until May 5 to accept that settlement or be fired.

The chief instead filed his first lawsuit on May 5, alleging that he is a whistleblower and is being fired for reporting the officer to the FBI against Garza’s wishes. Torres also alleges that Garza and other city officials tried to interfere with this alleged investigation in an attempt to chill it.

(Read: Edinburg police chief files another lawsuit — this time against former chief)

Torres filed another lawsuit against the city last Thursday, which also targets city council member and former police Chief David White and former interim City Manager Richard Hinojosa.

The chief here complains of his Jan. 10, 2020, five-day suspension without pay.

Hinojosa had suspended Torres for failing to timely report domestic violence allegations against another former city manager levied by a former city employee; for investigating himself over an allegation he hired a cadet with whom he had a close relationship; and for asking for a council member’s “blessing” to demote an assistant chief.


Torres alleges he was not provided due process during the suspension process and the litigation makes numerous allegations against White, including that he was trying to get Torres fired because the chief did not support his political campaign for city council.

Neither of Torres’ lawsuits make mention of the April 7 ruling that he discriminated against police officers for union activity.

On Friday, the city of Edinburg responded to both lawsuits.

In the whistelblower lawsuit, the city makes a general denial of Torres’ allegations and calls the chief’s claims “outright false.”

“In his Petition and Verified Application for Temporary Restraining Order and Temporary Injunction, Plaintiff has gone to great lengths to invent outright false allegations against the City of Edinburg and its officials,” the response stated. “None of the Plaintiff’s allegations are true, and Defendant City of Edinburg vehemently denies all of the Plaintiff’s allegations and would further assert that neither the City of Edinburg, nor any of its officials or employees, committed any unlawful employment practices or any wrongdoing whatsoever.”

The city also says Torres’ termination has nothing to do with his reporting to the FBI of alleged crimes.

Additionally, the city says Garza was made aware of Torres’ report to the FBI on Nov. 6, approximately 157 days before the city manager placed Torres on administrative leave with pay.

Because of this, the city says Torres’ whistleblower claim is exhausted because he did not file a claim back at that time.

In Torres’ lawsuit targeting the city, Hinojosa and White, the city makes a general denial and a claim of immunity from the litigation.

The city removed both lawsuits to federal court because its attorneys argue Torres is making federal claims.

Also on Sunday, Torres’ attorney, Katie Klein, filed an opposed motion to remand the whistleblower lawsuit to state court, accusing the city of trying to avoid the Monday temporary restraining order hearing.