Despite investigation, Puente given an honorable discharge by department

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Recently released information from the Jim Wells County Sheriff's Department reveals that the investigation in September into two former deputies centered around alleged unprofessional conduct.

Former deputies Mark Martinez and Vicky Puente both resigned within one week of each other following an investigation into what Sheriff Oscar Lopez called a "policy issue."

He said the investigation was an internal matter and did not deal with the public.

Through a freedom of information request, the Alice Echo-News Journal received a copy of the policy at the center of the investigation.

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."

In the discussion section of the policy, the department said it recognizes that officers and employees of the department are high profile members of the community, and as such are subject to constant scrutiny.

"As a result, officers and employees must always strive to set an appropriate example. This often means using restraint, avoiding conflict and working well with the public," according to the policy.

Department attorney Myra Morris confirmed last month the two deputies had resigned over an alleged policy issue.

In her resignation letter, Puente cited concerns for her health and pregnancy as the reason for her resignation.

Martinez said in his resignation letter that he felt it was time to move on, as his reason for leaving the department.

Along with policy information, the department also released Puente's personnel file.

Despite the investigation, which Puente resigned in the middle of, the department gave Puente an "honorable discharge" designation on her F-5 form. The F-5 is a report of the separation of a licensee from a former department.

The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education (TCLOSE) requires that when a licensed peace officer leaves a position, an F-5 must be filed from their previous agency. Designations are considered either honorable, general or dishonorable.

Under honorably discharged, the category marked is "resigned in good standing to pursue law enforcement career."

The document was signed by current Sheriff's Department Administrator Ricardo Palacios.

The Alice Echo-News Journal is awaiting an Attorney General's opinion on several pieces of information withheld from Puente's personnel file.