Galena Park, Texas — In an interview with North Channel Star writer Allan Jamail, the former Galena Park Police Chief Edward Mata said that on February 28, 2017, he met with Mayor Esmeralda Moya and Water & Sewer Commissioner Rodney Chersky, where the mayor told him to resign or he’d be fired for insubordination.
Mata said Mayor Moya told him she felt he was insubordinate when he refused her instructions to remove a former Commissioner Maricela Serna at the February 21st council meeting where Serna and some citizens were speaking out of order.
Mata said, “I told the mayor I disagreed with her, I was not insubordinate, I told her she herself failed to follow the Meeting Rules for keeping order in the meetings by her not having first given Serna a warning.”
Mata said he reads the Meeting Rules almost before every council meeting.
Furthermore Mata said, “The mayor positively did not instruct me to remove Serna or anyone else specifically. When I heard citizens speaking out of order, I then noticed the mayor raising her hand and pointing towards a group of citizens in attendance and she said, ‘Mata.’”
The former chief said he thinks he handled the situation correctly. “I ordered those speaking out of order to stop or they’d be removed, and because of my warning the meeting became orderly.”
Mata continued to say in his defense had he arrested someone without a violation of the Meeting Rules or any law violation then both he and the city could have been sued. He went on to say, “The official minutes of the meeting will support my claim of the mayor never instructing me to remove anyone.”
Mata said in the meeting with Mayor Moya and Water & Sewer Commissioner Chersky, he told the mayor he wanted to call his attorney for advice before making a decision, but the mayor told him he couldn’t call his attorney, he only had two choices, resign or be fired for insubordination. Mata says Chersky wouldn’t back him and sided with the mayor and told him to resign. Mata said, “Chersky said he doesn’t know the Meeting Rules, and I was very disappointed that a Water & Sewer Department Commissioner was present instead of the elected Police Commissioner.”
Mata said the mayor told him if he’d resign she would give him two months’ severance pay ($12,000.00), so he agreed to resign. Mata said he wants to continue in law enforcement and didn’t want a letter in his file for being fired even though he maintains his innocence.
Upon contacting Mayor Moya about Mata being replaced she said, “I don’t know what all the issues are about… Mata decided not to move to Galena Park and he had not found a residence here and he resigned. When he was hired, it was explicitly a condition that he would move to Galena Park, and he chose not to. It’s as simple as that. We have a great interim chief in his place, and everything is progressing smoothly.”
Mayor Moya provided the North Channel Star with the Special Meeting minutes of June 25, 2016, which Chief Mata attended and was hired. The minutes state Mata was urged to move to and reside within the city in 6 months and make a good effort to move to the city within 6 months.
Mata when asked about the residency reason Mayor Moya gave the North Channel Star, Mata said, “That’s not the truth, the residency issue has never been brought up and especially in the meeting where I was asked to resign.”
Mata said had the residency issue been raised as the mayor now claims, he would’ve been glad to have given her his immediate moving plans. “Residency was not the reason the mayor wanted me to resign,” Mata repeated.
Fire & Police Commissioner Oscar Silva, when contacted about the Chief’s removal, said he should have been present before Chief Mata was asked to resign. Silva said the mayor never invites him to meetings involving issues of the Fire & Police departments, which the citizens elected him to provide oversight of. Silva backed Mata’s accounting of the meeting by saying the mayor never instructed Mata to remove Serna in which she says he was insubordinate. He said Chief Mata handled the situation in a professional way and did the right thing by first warning the citizens to not disrupt the meeting.
Silva when asked if he was going to run for mayor in the next election as rumored he said, “I might, but if I don’t, we do need a change from the present mayor. Mayor Moya has good dictatorship skills and often gives ultimatums without choices, as she conducts the business of the city like a dictator.”
Interim Police Chief Reese Martin said he plans to apply for the full-time Chief position once the city begins accepting applications. Chief Martin has been in law enforcement for nearly 19 years and has a Master’s certification with The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement or TCOLE. Chief Martin is originally from DeRidder, Louisiana, with a population of a little over 10,000, similar to Galena Park’s.