Officials believe former interim CM will bring litigation against city

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

Officials with the City of Alice announced Friday they would not comply with a public information request for the personnel file of former interim-city manager and human resources director Ruben Maldonado, although the city did release his termination letter.

In a letter dated Aug. 9, City Attorney Joe Torres III informed the Alice Echo-News Journal the city will seek a ruling from the Texas Attorney General's Office to determine if the file must be released.

The Alice Echo-News Journal requested a copy of the personnel file on July 27, after learning that Maldonado had been "given the opportunity to resign" by City Manager Albert Uresti.

In his request sent to the Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General of Texas, Torres wrote that providing the file "would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of (Maldonado's) personal privacy."

The Alice Echo-News Journal has obtained copies of numerous personnel files in the past.

Torres wrote Maldonado's file should be withheld because the city anticipates litigation from Maldonado as a result of his termination from the city.

In the letter sent to the attorney general's office, Torres wrote that Maldonado "made statements regarding his claim that he will '…get $250,000 from the Texas Municipal League and all he has to do is wait…the law is on his side.' These statements were made to city officials."

The Texas Municipal League assists the city with liability issues.

The letter further stated Alice attorney Gray Scoggins has contacted the city on behalf of Maldonado and his "claim for libel and slander."

Asked about those statements Friday, Scoggins said he does not currently represent Maldonado, and declined to comment on the issue.

Torres further wrote that Maldonado's personnel file should be withheld because it is "at the center of his claim for libel," and that Maldonado said he would prove that he was not afforded due course in his termination through his personnel file.

Although the city declined to release his entire personnel file, Uresti did release a termination letter written to Maldonado.

The letter, dated July 24, was written by Uresti and alleged Maldonado had violated six separate sections of the City of Alice Personnel Manual.

Those allegations included "any conduct prohibited by Federal, State, or local law, City Charter, City Code, personnel policies and procedures or departmental rules;" "attempted fraud in securing appointment;" "insubordination," "dishonesty," "any conduct detrimental to the proper order, discipline or attitude toward the municipal service;" and "unauthorized use or disclosure of official information."

Reached by telephone Friday, Maldonado said the letter had been mailed to him, but he denied any wrongdoing and said he has never been given specific reasons for his dismissal.

"Normally when someone is terminated for cause, and apparently they have terminated me for cause, they have to give you documentation," Maldonado said. "They said all kinds of stuff about me that is not true, and when I asked for documentation to prove the allegations, all they told me was 'in due time.'"

Maldonado requested a copy of his personnel file from the city on July 31 to determine if any specific information was attached to those allegations, but said he has not yet received it.

"I looked at my file before I left, and nothing out of the ordinary was in there," Maldonado said. "If anything has been added, it has been added after the fact."

Maldonado acknowledged he was asked to resign by Uresti, but said he refused to do so. He also denied making the statements Torres attributed to him in his letter to the attorney general.

"I don't know where they are getting that from," Maldonado said. "I don't know who is saying these things."

Maldonado said Friday he has retained the services of Corpus Christi attorney David Burkett, although he has not yet filed any litigation against the city.