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Documents reveal Palmview suspended police chief after investigation

The city of Palmview briefly suspended police Chief Gilberto Zamora last month after an internal investigation concluded he purchased several trucks from a dealership where his son works.

Palmview purchased three 2021 Chevrolet Silverado trucks from Bert Ogden Chevrolet of Mission in August, according to documents released under the Texas Public Information Act.

The paperwork listed his son as the salesman. Whether or not his son received a commission on the $155,000 deal remains unclear.

“While I am not at liberty to discuss details about personnel matters or specific internal matters related to any specific purchasing matter, I can just generally speak to the importance of adhering to state law and local purchasing policies and procedures,” City Manager Michael Leo said in a statement. “Naturally, these policies and procedures are in place to help us safeguard the purchasing process with taxpayer dollars – they ensure that goods and services we procure spur competition, that the process is fair and transparent, that there are no personal interests in the procurement process, and that our taxpayers are able to hold our spending accountable. It’s always critical that employees adhere to these practices.”

Palmview suspended Zamora without pay for three days and placed him on probation for six months. Zamora, however, denied any wrongdoing.

“He wants his suspension reversed,” said attorney Javier Peña of Edinburg, who represents Zamora. “He wants that taken off his record.”

The controversy started in August, when the City Council authorized the Palmview Police Department to buy three new Chevrolet Silverados.

Bert Ogden Chevrolet of Mission agreed to sell Palmview the trucks for nearly $52,000 apiece, according to documents released under the Public Information Act. Palmview traded in three Ford F-150s, which reduced the total cost to nearly $101,000.

Members of the City Council unanimously approved the purchase on Aug. 24. Palmview cut a check two days later.

City Manager Michael Leo didn’t know the paperwork listed Zamora’s son as the salesman.

Leo found out on Aug. 30, according to the internal investigation, which the city released under the Public Information Act. He questioned Zamora about the purchase.

Zamora admitted that he failed to follow purchasing procedures, which required the city to request quotes from three dealerships, according to the internal investigation.

Asked if his son was the salesman, Zamora denied it.

“No. It would be a conflict,” Zamora said, according to the internal investigation. “I made sure he wasn’t on any of the paperwork.”

The paperwork, though, clearly listed his son as the salesman.

Confronted with that information, Zamora asked the city to contact “CP” — the person Zamora believed was actually the salesman – to clear up the confusion.

“Legal Counsel calls CP and dealership and confirms that ‘Gilbert Zamora, Jr.’ is in fact the salesperson of record,” according to the internal investigation, which identified “CP” only by his initials.

Peña said that Zamora told Bert Ogden Chevrolet his son couldn’t be involved with the sale, but his son’s name ended up on the paperwork anyway.

The Progress Times contacted Bert Ogden Chevrolet, but the dealership referred a reporter to the company’s marketing department, which didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Palmview concluded the deal created “a potential conflict of interest” and punished Zamora.

The city also reversed the transaction at Bert Ogden Chevrolet and purchased the trucks from Fiesta Chevrolet of Edinburg instead, which saved the city about $18,000, according to the internal investigation.

After the city suspended him, Zamora blamed City Councilman Joel Garcia for the decision.

“Mr. Garcia attempted to trump up a scandal involving some fight at some bar, which the chief was not a participant in. That attempt was unsuccessful,” according to a grievance Zamora filed in mid-September. “Mr. Garcia then sought to make an issue of the purchase of the three trucks, which the City voted to approve and which was approved by the State.”

Zamora claimed that Garcia interfered with police department business.

“I think the bigger issue is: We’ve got recordings of him asking the chief to do all this illegal stuff,” Peña said. “We’ve got text messages. We’ve got recordings. We’ve got everything.”

Garcia said he never asked Zamora to do anything improper.

When people call him, Garcia said he passes along their concerns to Zamora and other city officials.

“As a citizen. Not as a councilman,” Garcia said. “Because at the end of the day the citizens of Palmview are our bosses.”

Garcia also questioned why Zamora didn’t complain until after the city suspended him.

“I did not do anything wrong,” Garcia said.

Garcia blamed Peña for trumping up bogus allegations.

“He knows that there’s nothing there,” Garcia said. “But he wants to slander me.”

Peña said that Zamora can prove everything alleged in the grievance, which is backed up by recordings and text messages.

“With what we have, he should not be allowed to serve in public office,” Peña said.

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