BROWNSVILLE — Rio Hondo School Police Chief Nick Garza sat quietly and solemnly at a press conference yesterday.
He was seated next to his attorneys who were defending his reputation and calling for the identity of the anonymous emailer who they say has smeared Garza’s reputation.
On Monday, an anonymous email was sent to various media outlets which included a photo of Garza and made the claim he was smoking marijuana in a bong, a specialized pot pipe.
The situation led the school district to place Garza on administrative leave with pay. That occurred late Monday.
Garza has now filed a grievance complaint with the school district for placing him on administrative leave.
“The district did not have to place him on administrative leave,” said John Shergold, one of Garza’s attorneys. “Don’t put someone on administrative leave based on a photograph that shows absolutely no contraband or marijuana.”
Garza and his attorneys, including Shergold and Jose Hernandez, are calling for the immediate reinstatement of Garza to his assigned duties as police chief.
The attorneys yesterday made a statement and responded to questions regarding the photo of Garza showing him holding a large ceramic pot in his hands and holding the neck of the pot to his mouth.
Garza and his attorneys say he is not smoking marijuana in the photo.
Along with the picture sent in the email, the sender questioned if it was Garza in the picture and ends the message questioning Garza’s integrity and status as a role model for children.
The photo was apparently taken by an acquaintance over the Fourth of July weekend.
The photo later surfaced on Facebook before it was circulated to the school district and local media.
“I think the children in that school district should be proud of him because he’s done nothing wrong,” Shergold said of his client. “He is not going to coward down to public scrutiny because of what one individual sends in an email that the district suspended him for.”
Shergold said his client is standing up for his rights.
“My reputation and good name has been tarnished by the actions and improper information release by my employer regarding my employment status to the news media,” Garza said in his complaint. “I am being subjected to libel and slander by an anonymous third party known as the Defender that my employer is allowing to affect my legal status concerning my employment as the Rio Hondo School District police chief.”
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