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Alton approved $150,000 ‘severance’ payment to former fire chief

The Alton City Commission approved a $150,000 severance payment to Fire Chief Javier Garcia after he resigned in May.

Alton cut the $150,000 check to Garcia on Aug. 2. Documents released under the Texas Public Information Act call the payment a “severance and release amount.”

City Manager Jeff Underwood and City Attorney Ric Gonzalez declined to comment on the severance payment. Garcia couldn’t be reached for comment.

According to an “employee status change” form placed in his personnel file, Garcia resigned on May 25. The document characterized his decision as “voluntary” and noted the resignation was effective immediately.

Severance payments for government employees aren’t normal and frequently result from allegations of discrimination, harassment or wrongful termination. A severance payment after a voluntary resignation would be extremely unusual.

On July 6 — more than a month after Garcia apparently resigned — the City Commission met in executive session to discuss “Pending and/or potential litigation: Former Chief Javier Garcia.”

When the City Commission returned to open session, members voted 3-0 to “proceed as discussed.”

How the city became aware of the pending or potential litigation remains unclear.

In response to a public information request, Alton claimed the city had not received any communication from Garcia or his attorney.

It also remains unclear whether Garcia signed a settlement agreement or some other document that released the city from liability.

“After a diligent search on the severance agreement, I have been unable to locate a document reflecting severance agreement document,” Assistant City Manager Baudelia Rojas, who is also the city secretary, wrote in response to a public information request.

 

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