Says department found no wrongdoing on her part

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Orange Grove Journal

A former Jim Wells County Sheriff's deputy came forward Tuesday with concerns about the sheriff's department's investigation of her and her subsequent resignation.

Her statements contradict statements made by sheriff's department officials.

Vicky Puente said her resignation on Sept. 20 came after a six-day investigation, which contradicts statements made by Sheriff Oscar Lopez.

Lopez stated originally Puente was placed on suspension Monday, Sept. 17, which would place her resignation three days into a departmental investigation concerning Puente and fellow Deputy Mark Martinez, involving a non-criminal policy issue.

Puente said the investigation actually began on Wednesday, Sept. 12, and said she waited six working days for a response from the department as to any progress in the investigation, and received no word.

"I agreed to the six-day suspension without pay while they conducted the investigation, but in the end, there was nothing brought forward," Puente said. "The department produced no proof that I had done anything wrong or questionable while on duty, which is why I was honorably discharged."

In the end, Puente said, she did not resign because of the investigation, but for personal reasons.

Puente also received a copy of her personnel file upon her resignation, and said there were no statements or complaints against her in the file, which would have lead to an investigation.

The Alice Echo-News Journal received a copy of Puente's personnel file, and is currently awaiting an Attorney General's opinion on several pieces of information withheld by the department. Puente said after six days, the department did not come forward with any information that would point to wrongdoing on her part.

Through a freedom of information request, AENJ received a copy of the policy the sheriff's department said was at the center of the investigation. That portion of the policy states, "Jim Wells County Sheriff's Department officers will conduct themselves professionally and responsibly at all times in order to uphold the trust and confidence placed in them by the community."

Lopez was out of the office Wednesday morning and refused to comment on the case over the phone.

Sheriff's Department Administrator Richard Palacios, who was in charge of the Puente investigation, did not return calls for comment.