Leon Valley police chief unsuccessfully sought six-figure payout before he was fired, records show

Ex-Chief Joseph Salvaggio said he felt “continuously persecuted” by Leon Valley council members

Joseph Salvaggio is no longer the police chief of the Leon Valley Police Department. (KSAT)

As the Leon Valley City Council works to move forward after a tumultuous period for its public officials, records obtained by KSAT 12 further revealed the rift between former Leon Valley Police Chief Joseph Salvaggio and council members before he was fired.

During a Feb. 11 city council meeting, Leon Valley Mayor Chris Riley announced that Salvaggio submitted an “offer of agreed departure.”

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In the offer memo, Salvaggio told the council that he felt “continuously persecuted” by Leon Valley city council members, who he believes committed “possible criminal behavior” that he had referred to outside law enforcement agencies to investigate.

“I am prepared to take legal action under the Whistle-blower Act if it doesn’t stop, if my [state law encorcement] license is stripped or if I am dismissed for actions taken in the past,” Salvaggio wrote in the memo, obtained by KSAT through an open records request.

Salvaggio’s offer? He would agree to not sue the city if the council agreed to a six-figure settlement that would include compensation for more than 1,678 hours of work, amounting to more than $100,000, based on publicly available figures about Salvaggio’s salary. The council would also have to agree to issue a positive letter of recommendation, along with an agreement to refrain from disparaging him.

Weeks later, on Feb. 24, Salvaggio penned another memo, saying he was withdrawing the initial agreement entirely due to the actions of council members Josh Stevens and Will Bradshaw, who Salvaggio said continued making insulting comments about him and placed an agenda item intended to evaluate Salvaggio and hear complaints against him.

“I told you then, if this stayed on the agenda, the offer would be pulled,” Salvaggio wrote to the council. “It stayed on the agenda and was heard in executive session on February 24, 2021, which caused a political theater before and after the meeting.”

Salvaggio wrote that he would only consider future departure agreements if the money settlement started “at five times the amount” of the initial offer, meaning more than a half-million dollars.

Ultimately, Salvaggio was fired by acting city manager Crystal Caldera on March 5 and only paid for the time off he had accrued, records showed.

KSAT 12 News has also requested Salvaggio’s personnel file, but Leon Valley officials are seeking a ruling from the attorney general’s office to withhold the records.

Rocky history with Leon Valley city council

Salvaggio’s exit from the city was the latest chapter in his strenuous relationship with current Leon Valley city council members.

Shortly after he was elected to the city council, Stevens was arrested and indicted on a charge of assaulting of a peace officer in early February, more than a year after the alleged incident occurred on Jan. 7, 2020. The victim of the alleged assault was Salvaggio.

The chief told officers that he was trying to resolve an altercation between Stevens and a woman when Stevens allegedly struck him in the chest with his left elbow.

Stevens was one of the people who led the recall petition against council members Monica Alcocer and Donna Charles in 2019. In November 2020, he won the Place 2 seat held by incumbent Catherine Rodriguez. Shortly after he was elected, Stevens and the rest of the council voted to reverse Salvaggio’s appointment as interim city manager, who was appointed on the eve of Stevens’ election.

A vocal opponent of Salvaggio’s, Stevens posted a proposed resolution on his Facebook page to issue a “no confidence” vote on Salvaggio on Feb. 25, the day after Salvaggio took back his initial departure offer.

“We will continue to do the job we were elected to do, including weeding out the corruption,” Stevens wrote. “Weaponizing the criminal justice system as an attempt to railroad our efforts will NOT stop us. I will NOT negotiate with a bad cop that has terrorized our community. I will NOT give into his extortion demands.”

Salvaggio wrote to City Attorney Charles Zech the following day, notifying him of a “new criminal complaint” concerning two current Leon Valley City Council members. The allegations involved potential violations of the Texas Public Information Act and the Texas Open Meeting Act.

“These complaints are on top of the open criminal complaints currently under investigation on four of the six sitting city council members, and ten other current or former city officials,” Salvaggio wrote.

Shortly after his termination, Salvaggio vowed to take legal action in a statement sent to KSAT 12 News.

“Employees, including myself have been left with no choice but to retain legal representation and will be seeking justice in a court of law,” Salvaggio said.

On Thursday, Salvaggio confirmed that no lawsuit has been filed yet, but reiterated his belief that the council may have committed criminal conduct, a claim that council members have repeatedly denied.