SAN ANTONIO - A former Bexar County Sheriff's Office deputy fired for falsifying payment vouchers was rehired late last year after contributing more than $4,000 to Sheriff Javier Salazar's campaign, public records confirm.
Deputy Armando Lopez, who was assigned to BCSO's Reserves in Schools Resource program, resigned March 1, six days after the Defenders requested his BCSO personnel files.
Files show Lopez was fired in April 2011 after a lengthy internal investigation determined that he falsified at least six confidential informant payment vouchers from January to March 2009.
The vouchers totaled $2,200, according to Lopez's BCSO termination paperwork.
He was then rehired in December after more than seven years away from the agency, according to records provided by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.
Political contribution records show that Lopez repeatedly contributed to Salazar's 2016 campaign, donating money and covering food expenses between December 2015 and late September 2016, weeks before Salazar was elected.
A review by the Defenders of campaign finance records found the following contributions made by Lopez to Salazar:
- $100 on Dec. 15, 2015
- $50 on Dec. 15, 2015
- $478.34 on Jan. 16, 2016 (in-kind contribution for food expenses)
- $400 on Jan. 26, 2016
- $3,015 on Sept. 28, 2016
Records show Salazar's campaign paid Lopez $100 in March 2016, in what was described in finance records as a "reimbursement."
Salazar's campaign then paid Lopez $400 in July 2016 as another reimbursement, records show.
Lopez was also paid $125 in October 2016 for work as a contract laborer, according to the records.
15 violations of BCSO policies and procedures
Lopez's personnel file states that he violated at least 15 BCSO policies and procedures during the payment voucher scheme, including conduct unbecoming an officer, untruthfulness and violation of laws.
The paperwork also states that Lopez refused to appear before a Bexar County grand jury in late September 2010, bringing discredit to the agency.
In early November 2010, records show, Lopez failed to appear before the agency's Professional Standards and Integrity Division.
Weeks later, Lopez sent a letter to then-Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz, claiming that the investigation was unfair because he had been told a criminal case was filed against him before any attempt was made by BCSO to interview him.
Lopez wrote that the internal affairs investigation against him was a "sham designed to justify termination of my employment."
Lopez also disputed that he had failed to appear when requested, but instead had appeared and invoked his 5th Amendment and 6th Amendment rights. The constitutional amendments pertain to protecting yourself against self-incrimination and a having the right to a speedy trial.
Records show Lopez was given a dishonorable discharge in May 2011. In December 2013, BCSO records show its administration attempted to change it to a general discharge, which is typically assigned to peace officers who leave an agency in connection to a disciplinary investigation or because of a performance problem.
However, a BCSO spokesman confirmed that Texas Commission on Law Enforcement officials did not make the change since the time limit on the matter had expired.
Included in Lopez's personnel records is a letter from former BCSO Chief Deputy Manuel Longoria written in June 2014 that calls Lopez a "great asset wherever he works."
Court records show Lopez was not criminally charged for the voucher incident and went on to work for four other Texas law enforcement agencies prior to returning to BCSO late last year.
In an unrelated incident, Lopez was ordered in September 2005 to pay back BCSO more than $4,200 for lost county equipment.
The equipment included a Glock model 22 handgun with three magazines, a portable radio, his BCSO ID cards and a magnetic key card.
Fellow deputies indicted
While records show Lopez avoided criminal charges for the voucher scheme, two fellow BCSO deputies were indicted.
Deputies Anthony A. Alvarado and Charles Flores were charged in November 2010 on a combined nine counts ranging from aggravated perjury to theft by a public servant.
Alvarado's four-count indictment states that from July 2008 to March 2009, he took between $1,500 and $20,000 from BCSO by deception by failing to give funds to confidential informants as shown in payment vouchers.
Flores, in his five-count indictment, was accused of the same crime as well as making a false statement during a search warrant proceeding in December 2008 related to two men possessing and selling heroin in the 1600 block of Tampico.
Additionally, Flores was accused of taking between $500 and $1,500 from BCSO by deception that same month.
Alvarado later went to trial in 2013, only to have a judge declare a mistrial.
Court records show the charges were dismissed against both men in June 2014 in exchange for them surrendering their state peace officer licenses.
New badge number
When Lopez returned to BCSO on Dec. 4, he was given a new badge number and a spot in the agency's Reserves in Schools Resource program.
The unit was created in August to augment the security presence at public and private schools throughout Bexar County, according to the BCSO Sheriff's Reserve Annual Report.
Lopez was a non-paid reserve, according to a BCSO spokesman.
The spokesman said that Lopez has been given honorable discharges from the last four law enforcement agencies he worked for and that Longoria's 2014 letter was written after he was informed that the District Attorney's Office would not be prosecuting Lopez.
Pressed by the Defenders for more information about Lopez's rehiring, BCSO officials said he was brought on board by then-Chief Deputy Don Tijerina.
Tijerina announced his retirement in late February after Salazar asked for his resignation.
The announcement came four days after the Defenders began asking BCSO about Lopez's rehiring and just two days before Lopez resigned from his new position.
One of the deputies involved with the 2010-2011 internal investigation of Lopez that resulted in his termination was Tijerina, who was then a lieutenant with the agency's PSI division, according to BCSO records.
Tijerina did not respond to multiple calls from the Defenders for this story.
Salazar declined multiple requests from the Defenders for an on-camera interview for this story.
Following a press conference last month for an unrelated BCSO operation, a KSAT 12 photographer asked Salazar three questions about Lopez's hiring.
When asked if he was involved in recommissioning Lopez late last year, Salazar responded that he was not and that one of his chiefs at the time hired Lopez.
When asked if he knew why Lopez resigned less than three months after rejoining the agency, Salazar answered, "No, sir."
Salazar also said he was not aware of Lopez's prior discipline problems with BCSO.
"I don't believe that I've seen any, any detail about any prior discipline involving that person," said Salazar.
'A candidate I believed in.'
Lopez's Facebook page is filled with pictures of Salazar, often standing alongside Lopez, taken before and after the 2016 election.
A picture posted by Lopez on May 24, 2016, the night Salazar defeated Andy Lopez in the Democratic run-off election, shows him standing next to Salazar as both men are clearly in good spirits.
In a picture of Lopez and Salazar posted on Jan. 1, 2017, the day Salazar was sworn in, Lopez wrote, "Happy that's (sic) there's a new Sheriff in town ! (sic) He will be great!"
When reached for comment about this story, Lopez responded via email that he made the contributions "to a candidate I believed in."
Lopez said he resigned his reserve deputy position to serve the community in another capacity.
"In the years since the 2011 dismissal, I have learned there are many ways, in which I can serve and advocate for my community and loved ones," wrote Lopez.
Lopez currently works as the chief deputy for Bexar County Clerk Lucy Adame-Clark.
Adame-Clark confirmed via email in late March that Lopez does not have access to department funds.
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