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Rio Grande City CISD Re-Hires Fired Police Chief

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RIO GRANDE CITY - A Rio Grande Valley school district rehired a former employee who is suing the district.

The Rio Grande City Consolidated Independent School District police chief sued after he was fired from his position in 2016.

The school board made the decision to re-hire him on Tuesday night.

The former police chief sued for damages, violation of his civil rights, and denial of due process.

He was fired from the district three years ago, but it's all about to come to a close now that he and the district reached a settlement agreement.

The school district's attorney confirms the board agreed to let him have his job back and give him $400,000.

The board of trustees approved a settlement between the district and RGCCISD former Police Chief Hernan Garza.

He was fired in 2016 and filed his lawsuit that same year.

Dr. Daria Babineaux is a school board member.

She was elected the following year and says she wasn't there at the meeting last night when the decision was made.

Babineaux says she is familiar with the reasons for his termination. "It comes back to two cases of inappropriate behavior between members of the district and students that were not properly nor investigated, and that's what ultimately led to his termination."

Those cases involve allegations of inappropriate relationships between students and district employees.

They were investigated by officers under Garza's command.

CHANNEL FIVE NEWS did not speak with Garza, but obtained a copy of his deposition which mentioned these cases.

In one case, it reveals confusion between an officer and Garza as to whether the district had jurisdiction on a case.

The chief's policies were also questioned after it was discovered a mail box was being used to store evidence.

The training his officers received was probed, and Garza was also asked why timely notification of investigations wasn't always given to school administration and other agencies.

Ultimately, the school district employees involved in those cases and the officers investigating them lost their jobs and Garza was investigated then terminated.

The settlement will put him back on the job and Garza was also granted a sum of money.

Ruben Peña, an attorney representing the school district, said he initially requested more.

"The negotiations, they started at $1.2 million. So, the $400,000 was negotiated down," Peña added.

Peña said the district had already spent $160,000 on legal fees.

The attorneys anticipated that bill would double by the time they reached trial.

They studied the outcome of recent civil cases and then decided juries were being too generous in the amount granted.

The other compelling reason for reaching the settlement has to do with the district's precarious situation.

Peña said, "We no longer had insurance coverage. The insurance company that we had previously, which is called TABS, Texas Association of Public Schools, had gone into bankruptcy."

That would expose the district, current and former board members to be sued personally.

Dr. Babineaux considers a different kind of potential loss.

"So in this incident I think that if there's a time when we've had an opportunity and we have not done what we're supposed to, I just feel like we may need to go a different route so we don't make the same mistakes," says Dr. Babineaux.

The settlement is pending the federal judge's signature before it becomes final.

Peña said the settlement is for back-pay, front pay, damages and other fees requested by Garza.

Agreeing to the settlement doesn't mean either party consent there was wrongdoing.

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