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home : news : news July 22, 2014

6/11/2014 7:47:00 PM
Details of Lieutenant's suspension released
Anthony Ruiz

Alice Police Lieutenant Luis Barrera served a 12-day suspension during the months of April and May this year after an investigation found he had lied to administration about providing an anonymous tip to local media, as well as accessed inappropriate images on his office computer and cell phone, according to documents obtained from Lynn, Ross and Gannaway, LLP.

Barrera was also accused of sexual harassment, but the investigation found he did not commit the allegations.

According to a notice of complaint filed by former Alice Police Chief Randy Weems dated Nov. 1, 2013, on Oct. 11 he had arrived in Austin for a conference when he was asked about a demonstration by a Native American group at the site of the Multi-Use Complex that was interrupting the delivery of a water pipe.

Weems states he was not aware of the demonstration, and contacted dispatch to confirm it was not happening. He later found that Barrera "was the anonymous tip to the media that sparked the rumor."

On Oct. 15, Weems held a staff meeting where he told staff about the incident and that it had "caused quite a stir and waste of staff hours to resolve." According to the complaint, the staff present, including Barrera, were questioned twice about the rumor, of which they all denied any knowledge.

According to the complaint, on Oct. 23, Weems received a phone call from owner Nicole Perez that an employee, identified as "Ms. Gold" in the documentation, was being sexually harassed by Barerra.

Perez told the former police chief that Ms. Gold received numerous lewd remarks, invitations to be alone with Barrera and on at least one occasion was grabbed on her buttocks. She said even though Ms. Gold was "scared and reluctant" to come forward, she would like to see it investigated.

She also added that according to Ms. Gold, another individual, identified as "Ms. Green," was also subjected to sexual remarks and inappropriate touching by Barrera.

Preliminary interviews with Ms. Gold and Ms. Green were conducted during the afternoon of Oct. 25. According to the complaint, former City Manager Ray De Los Santos Jr. was briefed, arrangements were made to contact the city's legal counsel for guidance on how to proceed and the Texas Rangers were briefed on the case for criminal investigations purposes.

On Oct. 29, Weems met with Barrera to notify him that he was the focus of a criminal investigation for alleged sexual harassment and official oppression. According to the complaint, Barrera became upset and angry, making numerous statements to the former police chief.

Barrera told Weems he had contacted the media about the "coffee shop" talk of the protest, and had mentioned it to Ms. Gold "as a friend." According to the complaint, Barrera offered no explanation why he lied about knowing of the rumor during the staff meeting or why he did not proceed with a police investigation into the reported civil unrest.

As for the sexual harassment allegations, Barrera "acted as if he was already aware and made a remark that he was told this was coming."

He insisted the investigation was driven by the city manager, the complaint states, but was reassured by Weems that it was not the case.

Barrera was then ordered to place his cell phone on the desk and was informed his computer would be removed by I.T. He was also told that he was to only discuss the investigation with his attorney and the investigators.

According to the complaint, Barrera said he understood, and in his opinion, "the only reason Nicole Perez and Tony are pursuing this is because their newspaper is bankrupt and it is money driven."

In a supplemental notice of complaint from Weems dated March 7, 2014, details are provided regarding inappropriate images found on Barrera's office computer and cell phone.

According to the complaint, the computer's hard drive and iPhone were placed in City Clerk Rene Marshall's custody until both were sent to a DPS crime lab for a complete forensic review.

On Feb. 24, Weems was made aware of "images retrieved that were inappropriate, and also emails and other uses of the computer that did not appear to be work-related." After receiving a disk containing the found images, he filed the supplemental complaint.

According to additional documents, the investigator met with witnesses in early December 2013, including Barrera, Weems, Ms. Green and Ms. Gold.

In a memo from Interim Police Chief Albert Martinez to Barrera regarding his temporary suspension dated April 8, 2014, the investigation found that while Barrera did not commit allegations involving sexual harassment, he was "not fully candid" to Weems regarding his knowledge of the rumor as well as misuse of city property relating to accessing inappropriate images on his computer and iPhone.

Barrera agreed to a suspension of 12 working days, or 96 hours, without pay. He was allowed, according to the memo, to forfeit 24 hours of vacation and serve his suspension over several pay periods: April 9 to 11, April 15, April 22, April 29, May 6 and 7, and May 13.

The information regarding the investigation was released to after a Public Information Act request was filed. The documents were received via disc by the newspaper Wednesday after the documents were mailed to the wrong address.

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