Fort Stockton City Attorney Jesse Gonzales – who multiple sources say is being considered as the city's interim police chief – was terminated as an employee of the 83rd District Attorney's Office on July 3, according to 83rd District Attorney Sandy Wilson.
Wilson contacted The Pioneer this morning in reference to a story posted July 6 at www.fortstocktonpioneer.com regarding Gonzales being considered for the interim chief position. The article listed Gonzales as a part-time employee of the 83rd District Attorney's Office, in addition to his role as city attorney.
According to Wilson, Gonzales was a full-time employee whose employment was terminated on July 3.
Wilson said she wanted to make clear that Gonzales has no affiliation with the 83rd and that the office does not endorse him.
The Pioneer has reached out to Wilson for further comment. In addition, The Pioneer is awaiting word from City Manager Frank Rodriguez regarding the potential hiring of Gonzales as interim chief.
Gonzales would not have been able to continue with the district attorney's office and serve as interim police chief due to conflict of interest. It is unclear if such a conflict exists between serving as city attorney and interim police chief.
On July 6, The Pioneer reported the following story online:
Several sources have told The Pioneer that Fort Stockton City Attorney Jesse Gonzales could be named Interim Police Chief as early as Monday, July 8.
Under the council-manager structure used by Fort Stockton and many other cities, the city manager has authority to appoint interim senior staff without approval of the city council.
While City Manager Frank Rodriguez has the authority to make the move without consent of the council, the agenda for Tuesday’s regulation session of the Fort Stockton City Council includes an item entitled “Deliberation regarding Duties of City Attorney Jesse Gonzales, Jr." for discussion in a closed-door session.
One of three individuals The Pioneer spoke with this week said it’s likely that Tuesday’s executive session will be used to iron out details of Gonzales holding both positions. In addition to job duties, pay would likely be a factor, the source said. The unnamed sources in this story have extensive knowledge of Fort Stockton city government.
The chief of police position has been vacant since Rodriguez terminated Ryan Skelton's performance on June 19. The move marked the second time during Rodriguez' tenure as city manager that Fort Stockton has an open police chief.
As of July 3, the city had not placed internal or external job postings for police chief.
An email from Delma Gonzalez said Human Resources Director Sara Mata “has not been instructed to post this vacancy internally or externally."
The city offices were closed Thursday and Friday for the July 4th holiday.
Rodriguez had not responded to a request for comment on the vacancy and potential hiring of an interim chief by Saturday afternoon. City staff reported that the city manager is currenty out of town and expected to be back in his office on Monday.
Skelton became chief of police on Dec. 5, 2017. He replaced former chief Art Fuentes, who surprised many by posting his resignation on his Facebook page on June 21, 2017. Fuentes, who currently serves as the city manager in Sonora, did not provide a reason for his resignation.
According to an interview on the day of Skelton's dismissal, Rodriguez said that the department would operate through the current chain of command. The two ranking officers in the department are Lt. Maribel Perkins and Lt. Chris Orona.
According to one of The Pioneer's sources, Gonzales could quickly make changes to the force's personnel if he becomes interim chief.
So far this year, Rodriguez terminated Human Resource Manager Gail Lampier (replaced by Sara Mata), removed Assistant City Manager Shera Davis (who resigned soon after being reassigned to a lower position), and fired Skelton. The assistant city manager position, like the chief of police, has not been filled.
Lampier and Skelton have both declined to comment about the situation on advice of their attorneys. Davis has not responded after several attempts to contact her for comment.
None of the three former employees were sources of information for this story.
Jesse Gonzalez has served as the city's attorney since January 2017. In addition to that role, he operates a local law office and serves in a full-time capacity with the 83rd District Attorney's Office. It is unclear how serving as interim chief would affect those roles.
In a 2016 candidate's statement that appeared in The Pioneer for his unsuccessful election bid to serve as Pecos County Attorney, Gonzales wrote: "I’m a lifelong resident of Pecos County. I know the people here, their character, their challenges and their goals. I seek the office of Pecos County Attorney because my parents instilled in me a passion for public service and a desire to make our community a better place for our families and our kids.
"I became interested in local law enforcement at a young age when I served as a Pecos County Deputy Sheriff. There, I saw up close the sacrifices made by the men and women in law enforcement, the pain suffered by victims of crime, and the pain of the families involved in each case on either side of the docket. This experience motivated me to apply for law school in order to help improve the local system of justice for all involved.
"I previously served as County Attorney. I treated people with courtesy and respect and searched for the best solution in each situation. I worked closely with juvenile justice personnel to help young offenders break the cycle of crime while also protecting the rights of victims.
"I’ve also served as District Attorney. As a DA, I dealt with felony cases involving more hardened criminals. I learned that if we are to make a difference we must do so while kids are still young.
"As a parent of fairly young kids, I am committed to making a difference. I know the challenges of raising children in today’s world. As a friend and neighbor, I also know what we need to do to help. I’d appreciate your support for County Attorney in the upcoming Democratic primary election. May God bless each of you."
The Pioneer will update this story as more information becomes available. We will also livestream Tuesday's city council meeting on our Facebook page.