By Gaige Davila
The highest court in the state will decide whether a lawsuit against the City of Port Isabel from its former city manager will ever see a courtroom.
After the state’s Thirteenth Court of Appeals, which serves Cameron County and several other South Texas counties, denied the City of Port Isabel’s request for rehearing en banc, the City of Port Isabel plans to appeal the decision to the Texas Supreme Court, Port Isabel City Manager Jared Hockema told the PRESS. As of press time, the motion has not been filed, according to Texas state court documents.
The case was first argued in the federal Southern District Court of Texas in 2016, after Edward Meza, then-City Manager of Port Isabel, was fired by the City of Port Isabel in 2015 and did not receive a severance package he and the city agreed upon in 2010. The city alleges the agreement and or contract for Meza’s severance package was not valid, voting to rescind the severance package in May 2015. The agreement was approved in 2010 by previous city commissioners.
The case moved to the 444th District Court of Cameron County, where the City of Port Isabel had filed a preliminary motion for dismissal before the case reached a jury. Judge David Sanchez denied the motion.
The state’s Thirteenth Court of Appeals, in a July 2, 2020, memorandum opinion by Justice Gloria Benavidez, affirmed the 444th District Court of Cameron County’s denial of the City Port Isabel’s motion for dismissal, in a unanimous decision.
The Thirteenth Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from the city’s attorney, Gilberto Hinojosa, and Meza’s attorney, Daniel Goldberg, in October 2019.
Goldberg told the PRESS he is confident the case will go to trial.
“It’s just that the law, the facts, the Trial Court Judge’s decision and the 13th Court of Appeal’s unanimous opinion all make it really easy for the Supreme Court Justices to just affirm the decision and save their time for a tougher question in another case,” Goldberg said. “I hope they choose to just pay Meza what the City has legally owed him since 2015.”
Goldberg and Meza have told the PRESS that the city’s pursuit of appeals are wasteful to Port Isabel’s taxpayers.
In response, Jared Hockema, Port Isabel’s city manager, told the PRESS that Meza “needs to look in the mirror.”
A trial date is tentatively set for Oct. 26, according to Texas state court documents.
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