• October 22, 2014

Temple taxpayers could foot bill for another lawsuit

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Posted: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 4:30 am

TEMPLE — Taxpayers could foot the bill for another lawsuit, this one to be filed by the city of Temple against the Texas attorney general’s office contesting a ruling the city must release certain information to the Temple Daily Telegram.

The city will first file an appeal asking the attorney general’s office to reconsider the ruling, Deputy City Attorney Nanette Rodriguez said.

“We will be appealing that ruling and we will not be releasing the materials to you today,” Rodriguez told The Temple Telegram on Monday morning.

Any lawsuit must first be approved by the city attorney after consulting with the City Council, city spokeswoman Shannon Gowan said.

The newspaper filed a public records request with the city Nov. 14 to obtain information about the results of the Temple Police Department’s internal investigation into an incident involving former officers Daniel Amaya and Jeremy Bales and Lorenzo Martinez, a teenager who suffered a broken clavicle when he was arrested by the two police officers on May 18.

Martinez’s mother, Elsa Martinez, filed a complaint against the Temple Police Department on May 21.

Lorenzo Martinez said he was waiting in a car for his girlfriend at the Walmart in Temple when he saw police activity inside the store and out of curiosity went into the store to watch.

Officers barred him from leaving and slammed him to the ground after handcuffing him, he said. Lorenzo was allegedly slammed to the ground a second time, reinjuring the arm he’d already told them was hurting.

Police arrested two other men in connection with theft at the Walmart and Lorenzo Martinez was subsequently cleared of any involvement in the incident.

On Monday, the Telegram received a copy of a letter the Attorney General’s office sent to the city stating that the “city failed to comply with the requirements of section 552.301(e) of the Government Code” by not submitting to the AG’s office a copy or representative sample of the requested information.

In the city’s Nov. 18 letter to Amanda Crawford, chief of the attorney general’s Open Records Division, Rodriguez maintained that the information kept in an officer’s personnel file cannot be released and is confidential.

“The city just wants to follow the law. We have to follow the law,” Rodriguez said.

David Fernandez, Martinez’s attorney, who intends to file a civil lawsuit on his client’s behalf, said he filed an open records request for everything involved in the case. Fernandez said he had not yet received an attorney general’s ruling on that request as of Monday.

Amaya and Bales are both contesting a ruling by Temple Police Chief Gary Smith that placed them on indefinite suspension — the civil equivalent to firing them. The two officers were on paid administrative leave from May 30 until their indefinite suspension in November.

The public hearings for Amaya and Bales haven’t been scheduled yet, Rodriguez said.

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