Police, much like La Vernia ISD, decline to release records related to former superintendent

City attorney cites prior attorney general opinion, confidentiality rules in argument to withhold all criminal complaints against Dr. Trent Lovette

Dr. Trent Lovette
Dr. Trent Lovette (KSAT)

LA VERNIA, Texas – The La Vernia Police Department on Monday declined to release copies of criminal complaints against Dr. Trent Lovette, the former superintendent for La Vernia Independent School District who resigned late last year while under investigation for inappropriate work behavior.

In a letter sent to the Texas Attorney General’s Office, an attorney representing the department cited a prior attorney general’s ruling as well as several sections of the Texas Government Code in her argument to withhold records from the case.

The attorney also wrote that the state’s family code requires it to withhold the requested records.

The letter did acknowledge that the investigation of Lovette into possible inappropriate conduct with students is ongoing. Lovette resigned in November after going on medical leave — he said health issues were caused by allegations against him, which included inappropriately touching a cheerleader on the sideline of a football game.

La Vernia ISD yet to hand over text messages of former superintendent, despite AG’s ruling

The Defenders originally asked for preliminary information from the criminal complaints against Lovette last year, but officials in La Vernia said they never received the email because it was addressed incorrectly.

After the request was received, Monday became the deadline set by state open records law for the police department to release the records or seek an opinion from the AG’s office.

Officials with La Vernia ISD, meanwhile, have yet to hand over to KSAT 12 copies of text messages sent to and from Lovette more than six weeks after the AG’s office ordered them to do so.

The school district, through its attorney, has instead told KSAT 12 that the station must pay $1,621 to inspect the records, including paying a deposit of $810.50.

KSAT 12 filed a complaint late last year with the attorney general’s office, claiming the cost estimate to view the records is excessive.

Officials with the AG’s office responded to the complaint on Jan. 23, asking the district a number of questions about how it compiled the text message records.

The district has 10 business days to respond, according to a copy of the letter provided to the Defenders.

Lovette resigns

Lovette resigned Nov. 18, ending a tumultuous tenure with the district that included a list of allegations of acting inappropriately at work.

He had been on a medical leave of absence since late September, claiming accusations made against him had taken a toll on his health.

The allegations included a claim from a cheerleader at the high school that Lovette had inappropriately touched her on the sideline during a football game in Sinton weeks earlier.

The district’s board of trustees met several times in closed session last fall to determine Lovette’s professional fate, before he ultimately decided to medically retire. Lovette’s retirement took effect Dec. 20.

“We want to acknowledge there were students and parents who expressed feelings of discomfort regarding Dr. Lovette. It is our intention to ensure all students feel comfortable and safe while attending La Vernia ISD and will always support students when they voice their concerns,” said La Vernia ISD secretary Jeff Towns as he read from a prepared statement Nov. 18. “As we move forward, the board of trustees will continue working with the school administration to ensure proper training is accomplished as well as ensure policies and procedures are enforced.”

The statement Towns read from also indicated that the district discovered “infractions pertaining to social media usage.”

However, an official said via email Dec. 20 that the district had no responsive records, after the Defenders requested a copy of the investigation that uncovered these infractions.

Officials with the Texas Education Agency have not responded to an email asking if its investigation of Lovette remains open.

About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy-nominated photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.