SAN ANTONIO - A candidate for Bexar County sheriff is defending his termination from a post he held seven years ago.
Democratic candidate Andy Lopez was fired from his job as chief of police for the city of Nixon in 2009 after just nine months on the job.
Public records obtained by the Defenders show the city fired Lopez for failing to "meet and maintain specific standards," but he said his firing was retaliatory.
"I was fired in retaliation," Lopez said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. "I was fired because I would not stop the investigation."
Lopez said the real reason he was terminated was because he was investigating one of the town's councilmen for allegedly dealing drugs at the local high school. Lopez identified that former Nixon city councilman as Auvye Trammell.
Lopez said he was tipped off to Trammell's alleged drug dealing in 2009 by Cathy Lauer, the superintendent of the Nixon-Smiley school district.
"She told me that one of the city councilmen, Auvye Trammell, was supplying marijuana to school children," Lopez said. "I had a safety officer assigned to the school and he also found out the same thing from parents. When parents found out their high school children had marijuana on them, the children told the parents where they were getting it from."
When reached by phone on Tuesday, Lauer said she didn't recall ever having a meeting with Lopez about drug dealing on the high school campus.
"I can tell you it is very unlike my personality to call a meeting to indict a councilman. I have no memory of that whatsoever," Lauer said.
Lopez said whether the superintendent remembers it or not, it happened and he investigated the allegations.
Lopez said because the allegations involved a sitting City Council member, he shared the information with the Texas Rangers and U.S. marshals.
"If it would have gone county it could have been put on the back burner," Lopez said. "As much power as he had, it could have been put on a back burner, it could have been thrown out of court. That's why I'm glad it went federal."
Shortly after starting to look into the drug dealing, Lopez said he began getting pressure from Nixon City Administrator Oscar Casas.
"I was informed that I either stop the investigation or lose my job. I declined to stop the investigation because I knew what was going on and I knew he was supplying marijuana to the schoolchildren," Lopez said. "I was not going to turn my head and say that it's not happening. I was not going to turn my head against schoolchildren, I was going to not let that continue. I knew I was going to get fired and that didn't matter to me, but at least I kept Trammell from continuing to sell to the children."
While Lopez believes his refusal to drop that investigation led to his firing, Casas documented several concerns about Lopez's performance as chief in the months leading up to his termination.
Documents obtained by the Defenders show a series of letters written by Casas.
The letters started in mid-February 2009 and continued through Lopez's termination in April of that year.
Some of the concerns raised by Casas were that Lopez was not providing adequate patrols on weekends, a lack of a written schedule, not providing standard operating procedures, lying to the city administrator and being caught sleeping on the job.
Lopez said he never received any of those documents.
"I don't recall any of that," Lopez said. "Nothing about me sleeping on the job or anything like that."
One year after Lopez was let go, Trammell was busted by the federal government for dealing large amounts of marijuana and he was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.
Nowhere in the federal court documents was it alleged that Trammell ever dealt drugs at the high school.
Even so, Lopez said Trammell's arrest and conviction was vindication for him.
"I did the right thing," Lopez said. "I did not care whether I lost my job or not, even though I was getting good pay as a police chief. It did not bother me to lose my job, because I knew that I was not allowing Mr. Trammell to continue selling marijuana to the schoolchildren."
Lopez is in a runoff election with Javier Salazar to become the Democratic candidate for Bexar County sheriff.
Salazar raised concerns about Lopez's time at various law enforcement agencies over his long career.
Salazar said in a statement, "Mr. Lopez's unstable work history, having bounced around to over a dozen different departments, does seem like a cause for concern for many. I'm proud of the fact that I have served one department with honor and distinction for 23 years."
The runoff election between Lopez and Salazar will take place on May 24.
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