Garza says he has resumed his duties

RIO HONDO — Chief of Police Nick Garza said he is back on the job with the school district.

“I went to work and resumed full duties as police chief on Monday,” Garza said yesterday via text message.

Garza would not comment further, referring questions to his attorneys.

Garza was placed on administrative leave with pay July11 after a photo of him was circulated showing the chief holding a black vase to his face.

Some thought the vase was being used as a bong to smoke marijuana — Garza said he was drinking from it.

His attorneys said Garza has been exonerated.

Garza attorney John Shergold said he was informed on Friday by the school district’s attorney Leandra Ortiz that Garza could report back to work on Monday morning.

“We are just happy that he is back at work doing his job like he’s supposed to,” Shergold said. “The superintendent and him (Garza) met Monday morning.”

Shergold said Garza fought for his job and was also given a $4,000 pay increase.

“The chief is gracious and he is happy to be back to work with the school district and serving the community,” said Jose Hernandez, Garza’s lawyer. “Justice has prevailed.”

School district personnel have neither confirmed nor denied anything said by Garza or his attorneys.

Multiple attempts were made to contact Superintendent Ismael Garcia to confirm the reinstatement of the police chief and the pay raise his attorney’s claim.

Email and phone calls were made to request a statement or press release from the superintendent on Monday and yesterday.

There was no response.

Yesterday attempts to meet with the superintendent at his office were also unsuccessful.

School board president Jessica Gonzales and board member Noe Alaniz referred questions on the matter of Garza’s reinstatement to the superintendent.

Phone calls were also made to interview the school district’s lawyer for confirmation of Garza’s reinstatement and pay raise.

On Monday, July 11, an email from an anonymous person identified as Defender contained an attached photo of Garza with a large glass in his hands and holding it to his mouth.

The photo was taken on Fourth of July weekend while Garza was on vacation celebrating Independence Day.

“Defender” asked in the email whether it was Garza in the picture and ended the message questioning Garza’s integrity and status as a role model for children.

The photo led to Garza’s placement on paid administrative leave with the district on July 11.

Garza then filed a grievance with the district on July13 for placing him on administrative leave with pay.

Shergold said the school district has joined the effort in the pursuit into the identity of Defender.

“The best disinfectant is the light of day, and here is proof of the point,” Shergold said, quoting his mentor, Jim Mattox, former Texas attorney general and congressman. “We want to bring the Defender into the light of day and we are going to continue to pursue that at every aspect that we can.”