Kleberg County IT Director Joe Rodriguez is suing the county clerk for slander, and as county commissioners voted Monday on whether or not pay for an attorney to represent the county clerk, things got heated.
An exchange between commissioners Romeo Lomas and Chuck Shultz is an example of how contentious things got, before the county judge intervened.
The lawsuit stems from a report that aired on 3News last month. At the time, the Internet was down at the Kleberg County Courthouse, and so we interviewed County Clerk Leo Alarcon and IT Director Joe Rodriguez. Rodriguez is now suing Alarcon for slander because of what he said in that report.
"But as a county commissioner, I think we have to look at the code," Commissioner Chuck Schultz said. "And it clearly states there that if an elected official is being sued for doing his county job, that the county is to provide him with the legal service."
"I'm going to quote something," County Judge Juan Escobar said. "The constitution of the State of Texas clearly states that this is a violation of Article 3, Section 51, which deals with the grant or the use of public funds, and this issue that this commissioners court is voting on is the use of public funds."
On March 10, the commissioners court voted to pay to hire an attorney to represent Alarcon in the lawsuit. On Monday, the commissioners court voted three-two to stand by that decision.
Commissioners Schultz, Rosse and Cantu voted to stand by the decision. Judge Escobar and Commissioner Lomas voted against the county paying for Alarcon's attorney.
At the end of the meeting, Judge Escobar said Alarcon had contacted a law firm on his own without the permission of the commissioners court, and that he didn't have the authority to do that; so the judge said he refused to sign the contract with that law firm.
Still, the issue is far from over.