Council discusses city attorney issues

City attorney Rod Ponton

The City of Alpine on Oct. 7 continued its regularly scheduled meeting from the previous day. Members discussed the contentious issue of Alpine city attorney and municipal court prosecutor Rod Ponton’s job performance.

Council, Ward 5, Rick Stephens cited three areas he wanted council to focus on regarding Ponton’s performance.

According to Stephens, the first area was Ponton’s role regarding prosecution of municipal court cases. The second were actions Ponton took without consulting the council that, according to Stephens, “potentially placed the city at risk.” The third issue was Ponton not consistently presenting status reports.

Building Official David Hale said there was “lack of confidence” on Ponton’s ability to handle the cases at the municipal court relative to code enforcement. Stephens said the most important issue was citations for junk vehicles in residents’ front yards. Hale and Stephens agreed that repeat offenders were the main problem, including many who failed to show up to municipal court.

Animal Control Officer Jennifer Stewart also cited cases of repeat offenders and cases going unresolved by Ponton as municipal court prosecutor, including one that had been on the docket for 885 days.

Police Chief Robert Martin spoke next, saying that shortly after he was appointed chief, Ponton had asked him to fire two officers who had been on the force for over 20 years. Ponton immediately denied the statement, saying it was not true, but Martin insisted it was. He went on to say he was willing to take a lie detector test, and recommended that Ponton do the same. Referring to Ponton, Martin exclaimed, “I don’t trust him, and my officers don’t trust him to do his job as prosecutor for the City of Alpine.”

Finally, Martin said there were two active investigations in the city, and that the Texas Attorney General’s office had formally taken a case regarding two individuals, including one who had a problem with the police department. For confidentiality reasons, Martin did not say who those individuals were.

Stephens then rehashed the issue of the police department not being allowed to place arrestees in the Brewster County Jail. Stephens expressed contempt that Ponton recently filed a records request without obtaining prior approval from the city. He then demanded that Ponton make reports to the council after every municipal court session, including actions taken by him as city prosecutor. Further, he said Ponton must not take action on any city business without prior approval from City Manager Erik Zimmer and the council, and council agreed.

The next regularly scheduled city council meeting is set for Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom videoconference.

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