By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
Just over a year after he was terminated, former Port Isabel City Manager Edward P. Meza has filed a lawsuit against the City.
The suit, filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, also names Mayor Juan Jose “J.J.” Zamora and Commissioner Martin C. Cantu as defendants.
In the complaint, Meza alleges his termination was an act of retaliation for attempting to bring to light corruption within the City’s leadership. He further alleges that his severance pay, which was equal to one year’s salary, was denied him as a further act of retaliation. He is seeking just over $78,000 in damages, plus attorney’s fees and costs.
“Plaintiff Meza’s employment as City Manager was terminated by a vote of three (3) commissioners … in retaliation for Plaintiff Meza’s exposing various City Charter violations and breaches of law committed by Commissioners Zamora and Cantu…” the complaint reads.
Meza also alleges that the retaliation for his speaking out is a violation of his First Amendment rights.
The complaint further reads that the three named defendants, plus Gilberto Hinojosa, Jared Hockema and Commissioner Jeffery Martinez, “…conspiring to deny (Meza) his promised severance package was done solely in retaliation for Plaintiff Meza’s exposing the overall level of corruption rampant in the business/official dealings of these Individual Defendants with (the City of Port Isabel).”
The City has wholly denied the allegations.
In a 4-page response submitted to the court, the City denies, “… both factually and as a matter of law, that the Plaintiff’s termination was motivated by constitutionally protected First Amendment conduct or any other protected conduct.”
The response admits that no severance pay has been paid out to the former city manager, but denies that any is owed at all. The City denies, “that the DEFENDANT CITY was, or is, under a legal obligation to provide a severance payment as demanded.”
In his complaint, Meza — represented by Houston attorney Daniel Goldberg — requests a jury hear the case.
The City of Port Isabel has retained, via the Texas Municipal League, attorney Richard Navarro.
Look for more on this story in the Aug. 18 print edition of the PRESS.
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