SAPD internal affairs commander: 'They don't want this to get out to the public'

In taped call, captain explained plan to bury sex on duty investigation

By Dillon Collier - Investigative Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - In May, the San Antonio Police Department's commander of internal affairs laid out the department's plans to cover up a sex scandal involving a captain, a taped phone call obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders reveals.

"There is one thing that they're trying to, um, trying to keep this out of the paper, um, trying to keep it from being in there," said Captain Timothy Vaughan during an off-duty call he made to Sergeant Jim Jones on May 25.

Jones saved a recording of the conversation and later provided it to the Defenders.

According to internal affairs records, the call came hours after Captain Alex De La Garza refused to answer questions from Jones, the internal affairs investigator assigned to the case, about whether he had repeatedly had sex with a female officer while both were on duty and on city property.

Even though De La Garza refused to cooperate and retired a week later, the female officer confessed to the on-duty sexual misconduct during interviews with internal affairs and handed over hundreds of emails that described the affair and initial efforts by her and De La Garza to conceal it from the department, according to records provided to the Defenders by Jones.

De La Garza has not responded to multiple requests for comment for this story.

A third officer, Lt. Brent Bell, became part of the investigation after Jones received evidence that he had served as an intermediary between De La Garza and the female officer so they could continue communicating even after a no-contact order had been given.

At the beginning of the six-minute phone call, which was made after 8 p.m., Vaughan told Jones that the department was going to allow De La Garza to retire and that Jones needed to postpone a follow-up interview with De La Garza the following week.

"They're circling the wagons. They don't want this to get out to the public. It would be too damage, too damaging. So, we're looking at doing that. I had a long meeting with Blanton and everybody tonight, or this evening, or this afternoon, (expletive), and, uh, so, I was over there for several hours," said Vaughan, who, during the call, referred specifically to Chief William McManus' chief of staff, Robert Blanton.

"Once she gets disciplined, it becomes public record. If there's no discipline meted out and they transfer her, then they put it to bed. It sounds like they are trying to close this down," said Vaughan.

McManus has refused repeated requests from the Defenders to be interviewed about the investigation, but in a written statement last week he contradicted his own internal affairs commander.

"Keeping it out of the public view was not the basis for my decision," said McManus in a written statement released through the city attorney's office on Friday.

Earlier this month, KSAT received a letter from San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia in which he claimed the actions of Jones amounted to a felony and that the city would hold KSAT and its parent company liable if the station proceeded with a story based on information provided by Jones.

KSAT, through an attorney, responded to the city that the section of the Texas Penal Code referenced by Segovia in his letter does not apply to the media and that the media's rights to gather and report on information are protected by the First Amendment.

Up to this point, SAPD officials have not said who else took part in the meeting on May 25 that preceded Vaughan's call to Jones.

Jones protested the plan during the call, telling Vaughan it was not a good decision, and said he raised the same concerns during a face-to-face discussion he had with Vaughan while at work the following week.

Vaughan did not respond to a request for comment from the Defenders for this story.

The recording raises serious concerns about how the department handled an internal affairs case involving one of its highest-ranking employees.

Vaughan's call came two months before the case was finalized and weeks before it even went to the city's Complaint and Administrative Review Board.

Jones said the board recommended proposed indefinite suspensions for De La Garza and the female officer and a suspension for Bell.

The female officer on July 25 instead received verbal counseling for violating department rules related to the waste or conversion of city property and on-duty activities.

An allegation of prohibited sexual misconduct was overturned and ruled inconclusive, according to an interoffice memo signed by McManus and provided to the Defenders by Jones.

Another interoffice memo from July 23 shows that Bell's punishment was reduced to a written counseling.

Bell also did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

"This is a bad deal, man."

Jones, who said he moved up his retirement date to October 1 because of how the investigation was handled, provided records from the case and went on the record earlier this month, despite the threat of being prosecuted.

"My obligation is more to the public and to the officers than it is so that the administration cannot issue discipline and cover this case up and hide behind my non-disclosure agreement," said Jones.

A second internal affairs supervisor, Lieutenant Michael Mosley, expressed dismay about the plan during a phone call recorded by Jones on May 29.

"There's really no need for the department to do that," said Mosley. "This is a bad deal, man. This is a bad deal. But you know what? You don't have to answer for it. Somebody else above you is. God grace, that just makes no sense at all."

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