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Palmview police chief placed on administrative leave

Palmview placed police Chief Chris Barrera on paid administrative leave Monday morning.

At about 10:30 a.m. Monday, city Human Resources Director Gerardo Villarreal informed Barrera about the decision.

City of Palmview LogoBarrera said the city didn’t explain why he’d been placed on administrative leave or provide him with any paperwork documenting the decision.

“So I just got up and walked out,” Barrera said.

City Manager Leo Olivares couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The City Council may discuss Barrera today during executive session, which includes an agenda item for: “Discussion and Possible Action regarding Chief Public Safety Officer.”

Barrera will celebrate 20 years as police chief in August — if he remains employed.

Tension between Barrera and city management crystallized in mid-March.

“On March 16, Olivares and Barrera met to have an informal discussion regarding his performance, disciplinary issues, and his possible resignation,” according to a report prepared by City Attorney Gus Acevedo.

Three days later, Barrera filed a sexual harassment complaint against Olivares.

Barrera accused Olivares of sending him suggestive text messages. Olivares said he sent two innocuous texts by mistake and believed Barrera misinterpreted the third text message.

None of the text messages included explicit language or material. Barrera, though, apparently interpreted the messages as sexual harassment.

Palmview conducted an investigation, which determined the text messages and an in-person incident Barrera complained about didn’t constitute sexual harassment.

“Olivares is advised to demonstrate more care with his text to employees. He should apologize to Barrera for any misunderstandings,” according to a report prepared by the city attorney. “Finally, the city should update its sexual harassment policies, and all employees can benefit from additional training regarding sexual harassment.”

After Barrera filed the sexual harassment complaint, Olivares finalized a five-page memo detailing management problems at the police department.

The memo included accusations that Barrera failed to properly supervise the spending of asset forfeiture money, promoted his private security business with city resources and had “a laissez-faire management style” that “resulted in sustained instances of mis-, mal, and non-feasance.”

During an interview last week, attorney Javier Peña, who represents Barrera, said the memo included inaccurate and out-of-context information.

“I think it’s pretty obvious,” Peña said during the interview. “This is what certain employers do: They try to ‘paper files’ before they set someone up to try to terminate them. And that seems like what the city manager has been doing.”

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