Ex-fire chief arrested

BROWNSVILLE — Former Brownsville fire chief Carlos Elizondo has been arrested on charges of theft by a public servant and misapplication of fiduciary property.

Elizondo surrendered yesterday afternoon to the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office after learning charges had been filed against him.

He was arraigned on the charges and then booked into the Cameron County jail in Olmito, where he was expected to be released after posting a $17,000 bond.

The DA’s office had requested bonds be set at $30,000 for each charge. However, associate Judge Luis S. Sorola denied the request and set bonds at $8,500 for each charge.

Although the DA’s office declined to state what case against Elizondo the charges pertained to, a theft by a public servant complaint was filed against him in August by the Brownsville Firefighters Association.

In the complaint, it’s alleged that Elizondo made improper ATM cash withdrawals totaling $8,000 from the association’s political action committee while he was association president from January 2014 to 2016.

He was not fire chief at the time the alleged theft occurred.

The complaint was filed by Association President Jorge Lerma.

In an earlier interview, Elizondo denied the allegations and said the charges were filed against him for political reasons.

“It’s politically driven,” Elizondo said at the time. “It’s a direct attack. He’s the union president. It’s a ploy to attack my credibility and discredit me and the whole department.”

The Brownsville Herald has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the DA’s office seeking copies of the arrest warrants filed against Elizondo.

Yesterday, Elizondo was escorted to the DA’s office by his attorneys, Noe Garza and Victor Ramirez. Elizondo and his attorneys waited at least five minutes outside the DA’s office before they were let inside. They declined to comment on the charges filed against Elizondo.

Minutes before Elizondo turned himself over to the DA’s office, Brownsville police dispatchers put out a brief lookout for him. The lookout lasted for about one minute and was canceled when police were told Elizondo had turned himself over to county authorities, police spokesman J.J. Treviño said.

Aside from serving as the fire chief — Elizondo has since been demoted to lieutenant — he also is a Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees member. Elizondo will continue to serve his term, according to BISD Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas.

“We’ll take the high road, focus on the students and continue to move the district forward,” Zendejas said. She added that board policy prohibits the district from taking action against a board member unless that person is convicted of a crime.

Last week, Elizondo was placed on administrative leave with pay pending the results of an outside investigation, according to a letter obtained by The Herald.

The letter did not state who is conducting the outside investigation or the scope of the probe.