PHARR, RGV – Pharr City Attorney Michael Pruneda has advised the city commission and departmental heads to be careful what they say about former city manager Fred Sandoval.
In an email sent out Saturday, Pruneda said the city’s elected officials and top officers should not talk to the media or Pharr residents about Sandoval’s separation from the city or his severance package because it could be construed as disparaging. There is a non-disparagement clause in the departure contract Sandoval signed with the City.
Sandoval worked for the City of Pharr for 18 years, ten of which were as city manager. In recent years he also took charge of the city’s economic development efforts. He left in May following a change in the makeup of the city commission and, on a 4-3 vote by city commissioners, was given a $465,323 retirement package. The payment was made in two checks. The breakdown of the package included $190,000, equivalent to a year’s salary, and $275,323 for unused vacation time and unused sick hours. After taxes, Sandoval is expected to take home $281,056.
Pruneda sent his email at 2:15 p.m. last Saturday to city secretary Hilda Pedraza, communications director Gary Rodriguez and assistant city secretary Imelda Barrera. It was CC’d to Mayor Ambrosio ‘Amos’ Hernandez and Mayor Pro-Tem Oscar Elizondo, Jr. The subject line of the email was, “Fred Sandoval separation – client communications.”
This is what the email stated:
Please send this email to all elected officials and departmental staff. Recently, print and television media have been continuing to request information related to Fred Sandoval’s separation and severance. The written agreement between the City and Sandoval had a Non-Disparagement Clause prohibiting either the City or Sandoval from disparaging the other in any way. Should any staff member or elected member receive any written requests or calls from the community in general, media, or anyone, please do not comment. Any statements about the situation could be misinterpreted and cause a breach of the contract terms. Call me if you have any questions, period.
The Pruneda Law Firm, LLC
Asked for a comment on Pruneda’s email, Mayor Hernandez, who voted against Sandoval getting a severance package, said: “The City Commission is following our legal advice. Any questions should be referred to our attorney.”
Sandoval is currently on vacation and unavailable for comment.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows Fred Sandoval during his time as city manager of Pharr.