October 4, 2023 843 PM
PRESIDIO — Last week, Chief of Police Margarito Hernandez submitted a resignation letter with the city, citing unspecified “administrative duties” discussed at a meeting the day of his resignation.
“I have decided to resign this position after the discussion during the September 28, 2023 meeting in reference to Administrative duties requested from me,” reads the letter, submitted on September 28.
Though the letter does not elaborate, the resignation came two days after a lengthy City Council meeting — during which Hernandez was formally reprimanded for failing to complete required reports for the Operation Lone Star grant program. (Hernandez did not return additional requests for comment.)
Operation Lone Star was launched by Governor Greg Abbott in 2021 to provide an infusion of funding to local law enforcement in border counties. The Presidio Police Department applied for its first round of funding last year, and had also prepared an application for Fiscal Year 2024 that will no longer be eligible for reimbursement.
These grants work retroactively — counties and cities write the funds they hope to receive into their budgets, which are reimbursed at the end of the year. This year, the department was hoping to receive $50,000 for overtime pay for the state, as well as $15,000 for an ATV and $85,000 for a fully-equipped patrol vehicle to be shared with the Presidio County Sheriff’s Department.
Equipment purchased through other border security grants — such as the federal Operation Stonegarden program — will not be affected, as well as equipment and wages that have already been paid for.
The city has since caught up with the necessary reports and is in good standing — the Presidio Police Department will not be eligible to receive funding this fiscal year, but will be eligible to apply again in FY 2025.
In his resignation letter, Hernandez requested to stay on the force as a patrol officer. “I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you and the entire staff for the valuable experience and support provided,” he wrote.
Next Monday, City Council will meet to discuss and select the next chief of police. The applicant pool consists of the three officers currently serving the city, in part to keep the existing staff together.
At last week’s meeting, Mayor John Ferguson had expressed support for Hernandez, stressing that the official reprimand was not a reflection of Hernandez’s skill and experience in law enforcement and was not encouragement to resign his post. “The city was very careful to let [Hernandez] chart his own path,” he said.
Echoing Hernandez’s comments last week to The Big Bend Sentinel, Ferguson said that he had been caught off guard about the backlog of necessary reports — he had never received notification from the state that these reports were overdue. “It’s kind of like missing a credit card payment — they’re going to notify you that you missed the deadline, and it’s up to you to do something about it,” he said. “How can you respond if you have no way of knowing?”
Ferguson said that his frustration was directed at the state and not at Hernandez. He felt that having the department’s funding revoked was a direct contradiction of the governor’s messaging around border security: that the federal government wasn’t doing enough and the state had to step in to fill those gaps. “According to [Abbott], it’s such a high priority,” he said. “For the state to say, ‘Well, you didn’t do your [reporting] so we’re going to cut that funding’ — it just doesn’t add up.”
Despite the jarring news, Ferguson was feeling positive about the future of the department — and the potential candidates for chief. “Hopefully with whatever decision is made, we can just continue the business at hand and take care of the administrative details that were evidently not being taken care of,” he said.