Former police chief files lawsuit

Former Palmview Police Chief Christopher Barrera filed a lawsuit against the city last month alleging he was fired for “false reasons” and in retaliation for lodging a sexual harassment complaint against the interim city manager.

Barrera worked for the city for about 23 years but was terminated in April 2018 following weeks of uncertainty about his position that was arguably prompted by a meeting he had with then-interim City Manager Leo Olivares on March 16, 2018.

During the meeting, Olivares reportedly said he had lost faith in the chief’s ability to effectively lead the police department and advised Barrera to consider his options. Barrera then reported Olivares for sexual harassment to then-Mayor Gerardo “Jerry” Perez.

After reviewing the matter, the city attorney at the time, Gus Acevedo, cleared Olivares of any wrongdoing.

A few weeks later, a string of text messages between Barrera and Palmview Fire Chief Jerry Alaniz surfaced in which Barrera appeared to make lewd, homophobic remarks.

Several city council members cited the messages, which were sent on April 20, 2018, as a contributing factor to their decision to terminate Barrera on April 23.

Barrera, however, claims in the lawsuit that his firing was retaliation for filing the sexual harassment complaint against Olivares.

He also alleged he was discriminated against for his age. Barrera, 48, was 47 at the time of his firing and points to the appointment of the younger Gilbert Zamora to replace him as chief as an indicator that the city wanted someone younger.

Barrera had previously filed a complaint, called a Charge of Discrimination, with the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division on June 20, 2018, making allegations against Olivares similar to those laid out in the lawsuit.

“After I complained about the same sex sexual harassment against Leonardo Olivares to Mayor Perez, Olivares began his unfair treatment against me at work,” Barrera stated in the complaint filed with TWC.

On Feb. 28, 2019, TWC dismissed the case to allow Barrera to file the civil lawsuit.

The city issued a news release regarding the lawsuit earlier this week stating they would not comment on the details of the case.

“As this matter undergoes the litigation process, the City of Palmview will refrain from commenting on any details in regard to this matter,” the release stated. “The City of Palmview has always maintained the utmost faith in our judicial system and we will continue to do so throughout this process.”