In one of the lawsuits filed on Cameron County Sheriff Eric Garza, he is questioned related to his campaign donations and affiliation with a specific donor; which he later appointed to the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office. He is also asked about other people that were unofficial employees of the department; as well as, his consultants for the courthouse security decisions he made.
This was all discovered in a oral and videotaped deposition of Eric Garza, which occurred on or about November 18, 2021. This deposition was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Brownsville Division, in Cause 1:21-CV-00067, styled Javier Reyna vs. Eric Garza.
Sheriff Garza was questions about a November 1, 2019, donation, in the amount of $6,000, from Robert Garcia. Sheriff Garza states that Jonathan Garcia, the a current Justice of the Peace in Cameron County, introduced Robert Garcia to Sheriff Garza.
The deposition questions the monetary value of contributions made from Robert Garcia to Sheriff Garza’s campaign. It references approximately $47,000 donated to Sheriff Garza from Robert Garcia.
Sheriff Garza states the first donations made to him by Robert Garcia were before he met Robert Garcia; however, he also stated he decided before January 1, 2021, to appoint Robert Garcia to the role of Chief Deputy. He states the decision was made within the last quarter of 2020.
Sheriff Garcia states he asked Robert Garcia to be the Chief Deputy and this request occurred, from what he recalls, at Robert Garcia’s son’s law office.
The Sheriff did not recall if Robert Garcia provided any formal documentation for his review, before deciding to appoint Robert Garcia, but he referenced conversations about Robert Garcia’s experience he had with his Chief Deputy.
The deposition also exposed a meeting with the Cameron County Legal Division after the November 3, 2020, election where Sheriff Garza met to discuss having Robert Garcia as the Chief Deputy for the Sheriff.
Also provided in the deposition was conflicting information when Robert Garcia was appointed to the Chief Deputy role. Robert Garcia, per deposition, claimed he was appointed on January 1, 2021. Sheriff Garza stated that Robert Garcia was his Chief Deputy on January 1, 2021, but it was not official until March 2021.
Sheriff Garza states he made the claim Robert Garcia was the Chief Deputy before Robert Garcia was appointed as an employee with the Cameron County Government. Robert Garcia was also performing the role of Chief Deputy, per Sheriff Garza, before he was officially hired by the Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Garza stated Robert Garcia was performing the role for free.
Robert Garcia issued an order to the Cameron County Sheriff’s Deputies before Sheriff Garza was sworn into office. In providing the order, Sheriff Garcia provided testimony that it was his request of Robert Garcia to issue the order to employees he was not appointed to oversee.
Sheriff Garza claims that he believed he had the authority to grant Robert Garcia the ability to issue orders to deputies before Robert Garcia was on the Cameron County Government payroll.
Robert Garcia was also requested to order every Cameron County Sheriff Deputy to fill out an updated personnel history statement (background investigation document) provided by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE). The packets were not a legal requirement for those hired prior to 2012, that did not have a change in employment status or licensing status. The employees were given four or five days to have the extensive history document completed and returned to Robert Garcia, the person that was not appointed to the Sheriff’s Office, but had sensitive information.
This was not the only time a non-employee had availability of sensitive law enforcement data. It was learned that a person named Charles Hoskins was used to work on the Cameron County dispatch center. He also performed this work, for free, without appointment to the Cameron County Government. This decision was made, based upon the recommendations of his non-employee Chief Deputy Robert Garcia. Hoskins began working in the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office, with his own office, on or about January 6, 2021. Hoskins took Javier Reyna’s office because Sheriff Garza needed Hoskins close to him, per deposition. Hoskins was eventually hired in February or March of 2021.
Another question asked to Sheriff Garza was a questions about licensing requirements for dispatchers. He stated, in deposition, that dispatches do not need to possess a TCOLE licensure. The truth is, they do not need to be hired with one to begin working, but they do need one to perform the role.
It was also learned that Robert Garcia had keys to the Sheriff’s Office, and also exposed himself to the evidence room, and case information of criminal investigations before he was a sworn peace officer in Texas, before he was even on the payroll of the Sheriff’s Department.
The deposition also uncovered the use of Jonathan Garcia as legal advise for decisions to present the courthouse security matter which happened about three days from when Robert Garcia was officially hired by the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office.
It was, also, learned the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office created an internal affairs unit in the past couple of months in 2021, and Chief Deputy Garcia is the one to oversee the office.
There seems to be a lot of questions due to this deposition. It will be interesting to see how the Federal case plays out in court, and maybe, who’s paying attention to it.