Hidalgo ISD athletic director no-billed by grand jury; lawsuit imminent

Only have a minute? Listen instead
Hidalgo ISD Athletic Director Monty Stumbaugh (Courtesy: Hidalgo ISD/Facebook)

A Hidalgo County grand jury has no-billed Hidalgo ISD Athletic Director Monty Stumbaugh whose attorney describes an assault charge filed against him in March as a “political hit job” with no basis in fact.

The news follows the decision of a grand jury last month to no-bill Hidalgo Early College High School Principal Rafael Tinoco, who describes his related arrest on a witness tampering charge as an “attempted political take-down” in a $20 million federal lawsuit filed in April, which was amended this weekend with additional exhibits.

Horacio Pena Jr., Stumbaugh’s attorney, said Wednesday that he is working on completely expunging his client’s arrest and is planning to pursue legal action.

“This was just an attempt to destroy him because he was doing his job,” he said.

According to Pena, Stumbaugh reporting UIL violations involving former boys soccer coach Zeke Morales led to the arrest.

Morales’ removal as coach earlier this year sparked protests by parents and athletes, including a player walk-off from a game in February.

“He had to bring it to the attention of the administration,” Pena said. “There were parents who were upset about it. And it was nothing more than an attempt to have him removed and to destroy his reputation. And I’m gonna stand by that and I’m gonna prove it in court when I file the lawsuit.”

Stumbaugh, who announced prior to the arrests plans to retire at the end of this school year, is still planning to retire sometime later this month, according to Pena.

“The Hidalgo ISD Board of Trustees and District Administrators is pleased with the decision of the grand jury as it reaffirms our unwavering commitment to the education and well-being of our students,” a statement from Hidalgo ISD on the no-bill reads.

An amended complaint and new exhibits filed in Tinoco’s suit Sunday, meanwhile, sheds more light on the events he claims led to his rights being violated.

Rafael Tinoco

Tinoco sued the city of Hidalgo, its mayor, its police chief, two of its police officers and a coach with the district.

A response to the federal lawsuit filed last month by city defendants denies allegations and asks for Tinoco to take-nothing in the suit.

Sunday’s additions to the suit include four affidavits describing how investigator Esteban Lozano conducted interviews and interrogations.

Tinoco noted in the original suit that what appeared to be a blue plastic glove covered a camera in the Hidalgo Police Department’s interrogation room when Lozano spoke with him at the station.

Three of the new affidavits — one from Hidalgo City Councilman Guadalupe G. Sanchez and two from district employees — note the camera being obscured.

The fourth, written by Stumbaugh, says that Lozano recorded him on his cellphone, something that other interviewees noted as well.

“The whole interrogation was recorded by Detective Lozano on his cell phone,” Stumbaugh wrote in his affidavit. “At the time I thought it was strange that the interrogation was being recorded on a cell phone, but I never thought to look around the room to see if they had any cameras.”

The amended suit also now claims that Lozano’s subpoenaed personnel file from his time as an officer with the Alamo Police Department reveals concerns about potential civil rights violations.

An email sent from Alamo police investigator Rodolfo Garza Jr. to a captain this January, which is included as an exhibit in the suit, describes three investigators voicing concerns about Lozano.

“The issues are concerning possible rights violations and possible illegal arrests with comments being made to “take him for the ride,” to make a report “juicy” and “to make it stick” when an arrest has been made without sufficient evidence to support the arrest,” it reads. “Each investigator has their own concerns and complaints regarding responses and actions involving Sergeant E. Lozano.”

At one point, Garza wrote, he had to intervene after Lozano directed an investigator during an arraignment to take someone “for the ride” when the investigator voiced concern over there being sufficient evidence to charge the person.

“To my understanding, this phrase is used when there is insufficient evidence to charge a person but to continue with the arrest regardless of the outcome,” he wrote, adding that he told the investigator to not continue with the arrest against Lozano’s directive.

Finally, the amended suit includes an affidavit from a student at Hidalgo Early College High School.

That student says Coach Morales asked him to wait outside of the school’s front office to record Tinoco’s impending arrest, the suit says.

“This Affidavit from the student suggests that Ezequiel Morales, the former soccer coach of Hidalgo Early College High School, and persons named by the student in the student’s Affidavit, namely Mentor Cavazos and Paul Trevino, had knowledge of the impending arrest of Plaintiff Rafael Tinoco hours before it happened,” it reads.