San Marcos City Council unanimously approved a motion Feb. 15 to hire Julia Gannaway, an attorney with the law firm Ross Gannaway LLC, to represent the city in an appeal filed by former San Marcos Police Sgt. Ryan Hartman to reinstate him in his position with back pay and benefits.

Then-City Manager Bert Lumbreras notified the council of the officer’s “indefinite suspension” in a letter to council members Jan. 18.

“The purpose of this correspondence is to make you aware of the indefinite suspension of San Marcos Police Sgt. Ryan Hartman. In the civil service environment, an indefinite suspension is equivalent to a termination,” Lumbreras said in the letter. “Mr. Hartman does have the right to appeal this decision to either the Civil Service Commission or request his appeal be heard by a third-party arbitrator. Chief Standridge indefinitely suspended Mr. Hartman effective this evening, Jan. 18, 2022.”

Hartman became the subject of controversy after a June 2020 vehicle collision in Lockhart resulting in the death of a passenger and injury of the driver in the other vehicle, according to Lockhart Police Department records. Lockhart police found a half-full beer can in his truck, and he denied drinking and driving. A court-ordered blood alcohol test was ordered three hours later and resulted in no alcohol in his system.

That was not the reason for his firing, however, according to the city manager’s letter.

“Although we do not routinely notify council of employee terminations, we thought it best to notify you all of this one because of the amount of media attention that has surrounded this particular employee. Sgt. Hartman’s indefinite suspension came as the result of sustained misconduct related to dereliction of duty and insubordination.”

City Attorney Michael Cosentino explained the arbitration process the city will enter to resolve the matter.

“So the process under Chapter 143 is that when a discipline meeting time off without pay or in this case indefinite suspension—which is the equivalent of of termination—is administered, the police officer or firefighter has the ability to appeal that to either the Civil Service Commission or to an independent third-party hearing examiner/arbitrator, and that has happened in this particular case,” Cosentino said.

Cosentino added that witnesses will be called, and the arbitrator will have the ultimate authority to uphold the indefinite suspension or to reinstate Hartman with back pay, benefits and employment in the police department.