By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
Officials with the City of San Benito responded this week to criticisms made by Guadalupe Ayala, a veteran police officer and cancer survivor who fears his job may be in jeopardy should doctors not clear him for duty.
On Tuesday, the San Benito Civil Service Commission provided Ayala 30 days to prove he’s fit for duty by submitting to a medical evaluation. Ayala returned to light duty in November of last year following a bout with stage IV colon cancer.
After enduring excruciating chemotherapy treatment that discolored his hands and triggered substantial weight loss, Ayala is currently in remission with a good prognosis.
Still, city official have said that light duty is only available for those suffering from workman’s compensation-related injuries. Considering as much, and if not cleared, Ayala’s career as a police officer may come to an end with the only options available to him at the San Benito Police Department being at-will employment in dispatch or records.
But Ayala, a 20-year veteran of the department, prefers to remain a police officer and expressed doubt Tuesday in being cleared. He also expressed disappointment in his fellow law enforcement officers and claimed that he hadn’t received notification of Tuesday’s meeting.
“I didn’t receive any letter for the meeting,” Ayala said Tuesday. “When I went to the meeting, they (the commission) asked me if I brought a lawyer, and I said no. I told them I didn’t know of this until now. I just got the agenda this morning.”
Assistant City Manager Arturo Rodriguez said this was not the case and confirmed Friday that Ayala was informed of the meeting 72 hours in advance.
“They just gave me an agenda,” Ayala said in response. “There was supposed to be a letter attached and there wasn’t. I didn’t get it until I went to the meeting Tuesday.”
The letter in question was dated May 22 and signed by SBPD Operations Chief Martin Morales. In the letter, Morales requested that the Civil Service Commission review Ayala’s “fitness for duty” and ordered an examination.
Rodriguez said Wednesday that he could not respond to a reporter’s questions about Ayala because he had not attended the Civil Service Commission meeting. Citing HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Rodriguez added that he also could not comment on Ayala’s current employment status because it is in correlation with matters concerning his health.
Rodriguez did, however, provide the following statement on Thursday:
The citizens of San Benito have the entitlement of being recipients of the best public service provided by city employees. Citizens are taxpayers and must be afforded the entitlement due to them.
Municipal Civil Service has rules and regulations that must be followed and obeyed. The citizens of San Benito voted approval of the current Municipal Civil Service in place. When Civil Service employees are deemed not fit or unsuitable to perform the functions of the positions they hold, it prompts city leadership of Civil Service to review each employee in accordance to the strict existing Civil Service rules and regulations.
City leaders have an obligation to the citizens of San Benito, Texas and must follow the wishes of the citizens of San Benito, Texas who voted and authorized the city municipal Civil Service currently in place. The rules and regulations of Civil Service are provided to each Civil Service employee; a Civil Service manual is provided at the time of hire; each employee signs acknowledgement as a recipient of the Civil Service manual. A three-member Civil Service Commission is in place to review issues presented for review. A Civil Service director is employed by the City of San Benito, Texas. The Civil Service director assists the Civil Service employee and the Civil Service Commission regarding all Civil Service issues and rules and regulations in place.
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