Former asst. chief’s claims dismissed after he was forced to resign; TOMA, Sabine Pilot, First Amendment, UDJA, etc.

Arnold Ochoa v. The City of Palmview, 13-14-00021-CV (Tex. App. – Corpus Christi, January 19, 2014)

This is an interlocutory appeal from the granting of a plea to the jurisdiction in an employment context.

Ochoa was an assistant police chief with the City.  He also was an incumbent on the school board. When a parent of a City council member ran for Ochoa’s school board position, he alleges he was pressured to resign from the race or suffer a demotion. Ochoa lost the school board race and was immediately under investigation for misuse of City property, causing him to resign. Ochoa filed suit under a variety of causes of action, but the trial court granted the City’s plea. Ochoa appealed.

The court first determined the facts, as alleged, do not support any claim for violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act. While Ochoa may suspect a meeting occurred, he had no evidence a meeting occurred in violation of TOMA. Further he was not challenging an ordinance but seeking a declaration of his rights that TOMA was violated. The City maintains immunity for such declaratory judgment actions. Next Ochoa did not properly allege an ultra vires claims as he was seeking affirmative, retrospective relief through reinstatement. Further he sued the council in their individual, not official, capacities. The City retains sovereign immunity for Ochoa’s Sabine Pilot claims.  Ochoa did not allege a proper breach of contract or promissory estoppel claim. Finally, all of this claims have incurable defects and therefore cannot be cured by repleading. The trial court proper granted the plea.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel: Justice Rodriguez, Justice Garza, and Justice Benavides.  Opinion by Justice Garza. The attorneys listed for the City are J. Arnold Aguilar and Jaime J. Munoz.  The attorneys for Ochoa are listed as Javier Pena and David H. Jones