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Police chief’s firing baffles Martindale citizens

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From staff reports

Martindale’s longtime police chief was fired last week following a city council vote that has left members of the community with more questions than answers.
According to citizen reports, Council members Mike McClabb, Sam Clinton, Jan Bunker and Lisa Shell Allan voted to terminate the employment of Harry Juergens, who had served as police chief of Martindale for the past 10 years, a citizen who attended the meeting said.
The Lockhart Post-Register was unable to attend the meeting, which was neither recorded nor broadcasted, but made attempts to verify citizen reports with Martindale elected officials who were present at the meeting.
Those attempts were largely deflected.
The Lockhart Post-Register asked Mayor Katherine Glaze via e-mail on Monday if she had received any complaints about the former chief that led to the vote, if any incidents had been documented, if she had planned to replace the chief upon taking office, or if a plan was in place to find a new chief.
Glaze replied to the e-mail on Tuesday morning.
“I want to thank Constable Michael Bell for sending five deputies to keep the peace during the very emotional City Council meeting on September 7th. They did an excellent job. At tonight’s City Council meeting the City Council is being asked to confirm an appointment for an interim Police Chief. Also, the City Council will discuss the process for choosing the next Martindale Police Chief. During this brief transition period, the City of Martindale continues to have a law enforcement presence through a combination of the Martindale Police Department, and Caldwell County Sheriff’s office and Constable department.”
The results of that meeting were unavailable at press time.
According to a post by Martindale resident Elizabeth Cumberland, Allan made the motion to terminate the police chief’s employment based on grounds that included incompetence and misconduct.
Allan offered no further explanation or clarification of her motion or vote.
“Thank you for asking, however, I have no comment at this time,” Allan replied to a Post-Register e-mail asking why she made the motion.
Council member Sonja Villalobos confirmed she abstained from the vote as Cumberland stated in her post on Facebook.
“I abstained due to a threat I received via text. I had to call the Sheriff’s Office and notify them along with our City Attorney and Mayor. I know it’s crazy, but I take matters like this very serious. The text was stated that it was ‘specifically’ for me,” Villalobos wrote in a response to a Post-Register e-mail asking why she had reportedly abstained. “Due to the sensitive nature of this, I am not going to give names. The proper authorities are aware, and have seen the text.”
Former Martindale mayor Kimberly Smith was among those who submitted a public comment to be read at the meeting. She shared her speech on social media, excoriating the current administration for focusing its efforts on firing Juergens rather than addressing other issues in Martindale.
“What concerns me, however, is a long-standing vendetta against a member of this community and the machinations of certain individuals to see his ruin,” Smith wrote in a Facebook post. “Why isn’t the focus on infrastructure, roads and a plan to allocate these funds?
“The majority of the crime (and I am still emphasizing the low crime rate) happens in the evenings and on the weekends. The Chief does not work those hours. He provides a monthly report, called the blotter, at every council meeting and, with the exception of an occasional question, no one ever follows-up for any details. Why is this important? Because there is nothing to question. Because there is nothing dishonorable or disreputable about this man. In a time of ‘defund the police’ and officers leaving the profession, why would we terminate a loyal member of our community?”
Cumberland also submitted a public comment with kind words about the chief.
“He knows people in Martindale as individuals and is not concerned about race, color, economics, or whether you are a newcomer or three-generation landowner,” she wrote. “He has been here for everyone — that’s who he is. The respect and time he has given to children, the elderly, the impoverished, the disturbed, and to families of all economic levels, has been instrumental in bringing the town into the diversity of the 21st century.”

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