Laredo closes the investigation after attending. dismissal of the city manager

However, some information was withheld by the city because it said it had determined certain records were subject to exceptions under Texas public information law and not subject to disclosure. He added that the city is awaiting an opinion from the Texas attorney general regarding the release of the documents.


According to an attorney for Denton Navarro Rocha Bernal & Zech, PC, which represents the city, a letter has been sent to AG Ken Paxton and LMT regarding the situation. According to the company, some of the records in the investigation may be protected by Texas public information law, and the law would not allow the city to determine whether the information can be withheld from public discourse.

In a July 3 El Manana article, the Nuevo Laredo news outlet also reported that it had officially requested the report from the municipal prosecutor’s office but had not received it. Hale told them the report was important because she anticipated it would find a number of violations of her rights, but she had not yet received it.

Grievances and Requests

In response to media reports of his firing, Hale said in an interview that his firing was in retaliation. Hale spoke with KGNS on June 17, where she reportedly said her departure was the result of punishment after speaking out about ongoing retaliatory acts and unfair treatment of longtime Laredo employees.

“It wasn’t until I moved to the west side of the third floor that I became deprived and a victim of the toxic atmosphere that plagues our great organization, and which is partly responsible for its current state,” said grievance submitted by Hale earlier this year.

In her grievance, Hale also described a number of issues she saw after her promotion to assistant city manager.

According to allegations of a retaliatory issue, a May 19 email to Ruben D. Campos – a certified labor and employment attorney and certified arbitrator and mediator – written by Hale stated: “The Biggest retaliation to date is management continuing to exclude me from legal matters to the detriment of the city and its leaders. … I only accepted this ‘promotion’ because I was going to continue to be involved, albeit to a much lesser extent, in certain legal matters.”

At the June 21 city council meeting — the first council meeting at which Hale’s February 15 legal demand letter to the city was discussed — District IV council member Alberto Torres asked City management to provide Hale’s application materials.

On July 18, the board met in executive session to discuss Hale’s legal issues, but no action was announced. It was added to the agenda after Hale’s legal representatives informed the board that she would sue the city for violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

Summary of investigation report

Hale said that following her grievance and a demand letter submitted last winter, the city hired a third-party investigator after Hale’s legal representation told the city’s acting attorney town, Sylvia Borunda-Firth, that Hale would not oppose the third party. investigation led by Campos. In her June conversation with LMT, she said she had not received the results of the investigation.

According to Campos, he was hired to conduct a factual investigation, review documentation and determine if there were any violations of city policies, and provide his legal opinions based on the investigation and the law. He then had to determine whether the grievance could be legally founded under existing legal standards.

Additionally, the summary of the investigation report stated that Hale’s grievance alleged harassment by Assistant City Manager Rosario Cabello and claimed that Cabello undermined Hale’s position as Assistant City Manager.

“Hale does not claim that the deputy uses foul or offensive language,” Campos states in the summary. “Furthermore, she does not complain of any harassment based on race, national origin, age, disability or religion. She alleges harassment of Cabello on the basis of a ‘gender thing’. Specifically, Hale argues that Cabello (a woman) discriminates against Hale (also a woman) based on Hale’s gender and, also, because Cabello dislikes her and other women in positions of authority.

Finally, Campos wrote at the end of the Nature of Complaints section that Hale said Cabello was jealous of her, but Cabello and Hale said they had no problem working together.

Laredo City Attorney Doanh Zone Nguyen informed LMT that due to the nature of the allegations and the threat of a lawsuit by Hale, Cabello informed him that she would not speak on the subject.

As for the summary of the investigation carried out by Campos, it highlights a number of allegations made by Hale against Cabello and vice versa. Speaking to LMT, Hale claimed there was a toxic work culture within city management offices and a violation of open meeting laws earlier this year.

Although not mentioned in the report, allegations of a toxic working environment and vacancies within the municipal services and management department have raised questions within the public and council about the reasons for the turnover of city employees.

Regardless of Hale’s report and allegations, city worker Zulema Ortiz City of Laredo Human Resources Project Manager gave moving testimony at the last city council meeting regarding a toxic work environment within the city. She told the council to do some soul-searching, but she didn’t mention any names. Through tears and difficulty speaking, she said she feared losing her job after her comment, but could not bear to sit on the sidelines any longer.

“During my tenure with the City of Laredo, I realized that the culture within the organization leaves a lot to be desired,” she said. “Sometimes culture can be toxic and dysfunctional. This combination creates a workforce that feels undervalued and undervalued. There are countless employees who are committed to the work they do for this organization, but they are blocked and limited to what they can do by a handful of staff, elected officials and others, who, for personal reasons, want to maintain the status quo.”

“These individuals choose to micromanage administrators and others who think differently than they do using manipulation, control and intimidation tactics to stay in power.”

LMT contacted the human resources manager who did not respond to request for comment.

According to the investigation, she outlines a number of issues and allegations that Hale and Cabello thought were important. These include:

  • The allegation that Hale was under the influence of alcohol at a Halloween party on October 29, 2021. Campos called his investigation “inconclusive” on this point, writing: “No conclusion has been fired”.
  • The allegation that Hale was under the influence or had been drinking on another occasion in late 2021. Campos said that allegation was “unsubstantiated” based on his investigation.
  • The allegation that Cabello violated city policy on alcohol and drug testing by failing to force Hale to submit to a drug and alcohol test. Campos found this allegation “unsubstantiated (based on the interpretation of the language of the rule)”.
  • The allegation that Cabello improperly avoided testing under the alcohol and drug testing policy when she fell on the job. Campos wrote: “Unfounded. As noted by HR, based on the opinion of a former city attorney, the policy only applies to traffic accidents, and HR informed Cabello that she had no need test when it fell.
  • The allegation that Cabello is undermining Hale by attending his meetings with Councilwoman (Alyssa) Cigarroa. Campos said it was “unsubstantiated”.
  • Allegations that Cabello undermined Hale by leaking information to La Gordiloca regarding issues at the animal care center and Albert Gutierrez. Again, Campos wrote, “Unfounded.”
  • The allegation that Ana Sophie Garcia was not informed in advance of the hiring of a new municipal prosecutor in Dean Roggia. Campos concluded it was “founded, but not harassment or undermining.”

A number of witnesses were interviewed based on a witness list shared by Hale, and his account of several cases during his tenure as deputy city manager was used during the investigation. The summary of findings stated that through testimony, documentary evidence and court authorities do not support Hale’s assertions that Cabello’s actions were unlawful discrimination or harassment based on Hale’s gender or status.

The investigation involved Campos reviewing hundreds of pages of documents including emails, documents related to city personnel, city policies, photographs, text and other materials provided by Hale, Cabello and other witnesses.

Hale’s letter of request says she raised concerns in the Jan. 28 grievance about instances of mismanagement, spreading rumors and breaches of ethics. “It wasn’t until I moved to the west side of the third floor that I became deprived and a victim of the toxic atmosphere that plagues our large organization,” she wrote in her grievance.

Hale included in the letter the alleged misrepresentation that she had been under the influence of alcohol in a meeting, which she claimed constituted defamation of her professional reputation.

“The City of Laredo has for some time been plagued by a pervasive hostile work environment, career sabotage, favoritism, defamation, retaliation, harassment, unlawful disclosure of information, intimidation , official oppression, interference in administration, and unwillingness to follow one’s own ordinances and well-established state laws,” Hale’s notice of grievance reads.

“These shameful actions … have led to the current state of the city and can no longer be ignored, as our employees and the citizens of the City of Laredo deserve better.”

Summary

Campos’ executive summary was dated and signed on June 27.

“The courts have made it clear that federal anti-discrimination laws are not intended to serve the purpose of a general code of civility for the American workplace,” the summary reads. “Furthermore, the courts also emphasize that in the absence of discrimination, an employer’s operational and personnel decisions should not be questioned.

“So while different reasonable people may disagree about whether a particular decision was right or wise to make, such differences of opinion do not make the decision illegal to discriminate or harass.”

Beginning with the June 29 cover letter, the City Manager’s office delivered the results to Hale and Cabello by hand delivery. Then-City Manager Samuel Keith Selman wrote that he now considers the matter closed following the conclusion of the inquest.

“I’m honestly happy not to be associated with this management team, which is very dysfunctional. But again, I feel fair for the employees and anyone who has to do this,” Hale told LMT.

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