Sheriff’s Division Chief reassigned after allegations of nepotism raised

    EDINBURG — A supervisor with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s office was transferred to a different department after it was determined he was in violation of the county’s nepotism policy.

    EDINBURG — A supervisor with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s office was transferred to a different department after it was determined he was in violation of the county’s nepotism policy.

    Former Division Chief Joel Rivera, the uncle of recently suspended deputy Jayson Andrew Rivera, was reassigned effective May 1 to the budget and finance department of the sheriff’s office, sheriff’s officials confirmed.

    Joel Rivera’s move to the budget and finance department comes after the county’s auditor Ray Eufracio was made aware of the possible relationship between Rivera and Jayson.

    Eufracio told The Monitor that the county’s nepotism policy is clear about how it pertains to supervisors in any given Hidalgo County department.

    Eufracio said because Jayson Rivera fell within Joel Rivera’s chain of command as the division chief, the office was in violation of the policy.

    He said he personally reached out to sheriff’s officials after The Monitor published a story about the possible relationship between the division chief and Jayson on April 17.

    Eufracio said last Friday that he had not followed up with anyone since his initial call advising the office of the violation but has heard that Rivera was reassigned.

    But Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra, who confirmed Rivera’s and other employees’ reassignments, said he didn’t agree with Eufracio’s contention that the relationship between the two relatives was a violation.

    “It is my understanding that the county auditor has raised some concerns over familial relationships with employees in my office and whether those relationships violate the County’s nepotism policy. It is my understanding that the familial relationship in question (between a division chief and an employee) is not prohibited conduct as outlined by chapter 573 of the Texas Government Code,” Guerra said. “In an effort to address any concerns, I have reviewed all personnel and staff positions and have made appropriate reassignments.”

    But the county policy is clear and details how it also applies to supervisors and managers of a given county department.

    “This policy also applies to supervisors or persons responsible for the actions of other employees who directly oversee the performance and/or job duties of employees (“Supervisors”),” according to the county’s policy.

    The reassignment allows Joel Rivera to remain employed at the sheriff’s office after Jayson Rivera, a deputy with less than two years tenure with the sheriff’s office, was placed on paid suspension at the end of March when Weslaco police formally charged him with injury to a child.

    Guerra went on to say that just as was the case in the past, future personnel decisions would be made in the best interest of the county.

    “Our office continues to be committed to maintaining transparency and the highest level of open government,” Guerra said.

    Jayson’s suspension stems from an incident in January.

    According to the affidavit filed by Weslaco police, the 29-year-old man’s alleged abuse of the victim, a minor under 14 years of age, came to light after a Child Protective Service official filed a report of injury to a child with the police department in connection with a Jan. 7 incident.

    A CPS worker made contact at the alleged victim’s school, IDEA Public Schools, and Jayson, who told the investigator he spanked the child using a belt sometime between Jan. 5, and Jan. 8, after the child’s guardian left him with Jayson, the complaint states.

    sGuerra said a recent internal investigation into the alleged abuse conducted by a high-ranking sheriff’s official determined Jayson was not in violation of any sheriff’s office policies.

    After Jayson was placed on paid suspension some deputies expressed dissatisfaction with how their superiors handled his situation. Specifically, they pointed to a disparity in how Jayson was treated compared to other deputies who have been accused of offenses deemed less egregious.

    There were at least four deputies who were terminated since September of 2016 for alleged offenses ranging from DWI to assault of an inmate. Jayson Rivera, who was accused of a felony, was not terminated immediately; he continued to receive a paycheck while on suspension.

    The nepotism law is designed not only to prevent favoritism, but also the appearance of favoritism, the rule states.

    “The Hidalgo County Nepotism Policy (the “Policy”) has been created to prevent conflicts of interest and appearances of favoritism that result from appointment, and or supervision of an employee by a public official or supervisor,” the policy states.

    According to the policy, Rivera was in violation because of his blood relationship to Jayson.

    Because Rivera, a supervisor, is Jayson’s uncle, he would be related to him by the third consanguinity, which includes uncles, aunts, nephew, nieces, great grandparents, and great grandchildren — and was also responsible in disclosing the existence of any relationship that might create a conflict of interest at the time of employment, according to the policy.

    Despite the violations, and unlike other employees at the sheriff’s office, Rivera avoided the most severe punishment for violating the policy — termination.

    Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez Jr. said a grand jury is scheduled to hear evidence in the child abuse case involving Jayson Rivera in the next two weeks.

    According to the sheriff, Jayson Rivera remains on paid suspension.

    More Information

    The following relationships by affinity are prohibited by (the Hidalgo County Nepotism) policy:

    First Degree: A public official or supervisor who is the parent or child of a prospective employee is related in the first degree by consanguinity. An adopted child is treated as a natural child of the adoptive parents.

    Second Degree: A public official or supervisor who is the grandparent, grandchild, sister, or brother of a prospective employee is related in the second degree by consanguinity.

    Third Degree: A public official or supervisor who is the great grandparent, great grandchild, aunt, uncle, nephew or niece of a prospective employee is related in the third degree by consanguinity.