Leon Valley councilman denies harassment allegations, investigation to continue

By Dillon Collier - Investigative Reporter, Dawn Jorgenson - Graham Media Group, Patty Santos - Reporter

LEON VALLEY, Texas - UPDATE: Leon Valley city council has asked a private investigator to look further into misconduct allegations against councilman Benny Martinez.

Councilmembers, excluding Martinez, and the mayor met with an attorney to discuss the allegations during an executive session on Tuesday.

Martinez denied the allegations against him and said the city manager is trying to unseat him.

"I don't feel I've done anything wrong. I'm the voice of the citizens," said Martinez.

"As city manager, I'm in charge of ensuring all taxpayers and city are cared for. That's why I asked for this factual investigation to protect accusers, the accused and taxpayers," said Kelly Kuenstler, Leon Valley city manager.

Once the investigation is over, city council can vote to dismiss the councilman of his duties or hold a public hearing.

The public hearing would include witnesses. The final decision on Martinez's future would still be made by city council.

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Leon Valley city council on Tuesday will decide the future of one of its own, after an independent investigation determined the councilmember may have created a hostile working environment.

A private law firm was hired in February to investigate a flurry of allegations against Councilman Benny Martinez.

The six complaints ranged from allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual contact to bullying of city staff. 

According to documents obtained by KSAT, one of the two sexual harassment allegations was filed by a fellow council member.

Five other people, including two police officers, accused Martinez of creating a hostile work environment and challenging police authority during security checks at City Hall. 

Among the complainants are the city attorney and the planning and zoning director.

In documents, Martinez denies wrongdoing, saying the complaints are part of a conspiracy against him.

The investigation found that some of the claims of a hostile work environment were not sustained, meaning that the outside firm does not believe the city could be held liable if a lawsuit were to be filed.

However, the report recommended that two of the complaints be taken up by council for possible action against Martinez.

One of those complaints came from a public works department employee, who said that on two occasions Martinez attempted to look down her shirt.

In the report her interaction with Martinez was described as him making "a constant visual inspection of her body in an obvious manner."

The second report expected to be taken up by council involves an allegation that Martinez acted and spoke to a female council member in a sexually suggestive manner.

That complaint includes an allegation that Martinez asked her during a National Night Out event "in a deep luring voice" if she wanted to take a bath.

The same complaint states that two months later, while a picture was being taken during a tree lighting ceremony, Martinez "thrust his crotch forward" until it rubbed against the backside of the female councilmember.

The City Council and legal staff will meet Tuesday night to determine what, if any, action to take against Martinez.

Martinez did not return requests for comment.

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