Political Payback at the Sheriff’s Office?

We have decide in favor of publishing this reader’s submission.  We retained the right to title this post as we chose, to tag keywords and to write the snippet.  We also inserted a link to the article mentioned in the post, for context.  

Bexar County Deputy Henry Reyes
KSAT12 photo of Henry Reyes

I want to thank your website if you decide to print my article.  I appreciate you letting me vent my frustration.  I would like to start out by saying that I am a citizen of Bexar County, I am not a member of Sheriff Salazar’s administrative staff and the opinions in this article are solely my own.  I speak only for myself, not the Sheriff’s Office.  I would like to add that I thought Susan Pamerleau was a good sheriff but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything she did.

A Lawsuit gets Filed.

For those who don’t know, Henry Reyes, a deputy chief under Sheriff Susan Pamerleau, has filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Javier Salazar. He is basically claiming to have been fired for political reasons and is asking for a whole host of remedies.

Understanding the Situation.

Sheriffs are allowed to have up to 10 exempt positions.  The sheriff can appoint pretty much anyone he or she wants into those positions.  However, those positions are labeled exempt because they are not given Civil Service protection.  The sheriff may select whoever she wants but those people serve at the will of the sheriff.  A new sheriff coming in can ask some of them if they would like to stay or the new sheriff can get rid of all of them and bring in his own people.

What Happened?

Susan Pamerleau lost her re-election bid.  Seven days before her term was up, Susan Pamerleau demoted two of her deputy chiefs into Civil Service protected positions.  One of those chiefs was Henry Reyes, who was demoted to a lieutenant position; the position he held before Pamerleau made him a chief.  Incoming sheriff Javier Salazar filed a restraining order that was at first upheld but later revoked.  The legality of Pamerleau’s move was not tested.  Upon taking office Sheriff Salazar accepted only one of the Pamerleau’s appointees.  The rest of the exempt staff were banned from the building.

A Little Bit of History

In the KSAT12 article Henry Reyes makes comments regarding his actions towards, and being a quiet supporter of, Sheriff Pamerleau’s re-election campaign.  That may be true for her re-election campaign but I was at Sheriff Pamerleau’s swearing in ceremony when she took over the office from then Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz.  Pamerleau thanked people generally for their support but there was one person she gave effusive thanks to.  That person was Henry Reyes who had been given special seating in the jury box portion of the courtroom where the swearing in was held.  Susan Pamerleau said she wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for him and everything he had done for her.  She went on in that vein for a few moments and I remember thinking it wouldn’t be long before he was given a well-paid chief position, which eventually did come to pass.

Was the Removal of Reyes a Civil Service Violation?

The KSAT12 article gives a link to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Civil Service Rules.  However, as I mentioned above, these positions are not covered by Civil Service so the Civil Service rules never applied to what the Sheriff could do with an exempt position.  Civil Service rules apply to Civil Service protected positions.

Are There Rules that Cover Exempt Positions?

As a matter of fact, there are.  What everyone should be looking at is the Texas Local Government Code – 158.038.  This code deals with Exemptions (exempt positions).  This is also the statute that says the Sheriff can have up to 10 exempt positions.  The part of the statute that pertains is subsection (d) which reads:

(d) At the time a new sheriff takes office, an employee holding an exempt position may be transferred to the nonexempt position held by the employee immediately before being promoted to an exempt position.  A person who was not an officer in the department when appointed to an exempt position may be transferred only to an entry level position in accordance with the system’s civil service rules.

Did you catch that first line?  At the time a new sheriff takes office…  This statute was clearly written with the intent that the incoming sheriff is the one with the right to offer to demote from an exempt position into a nonexempt position if he chooses.  This statute does not say a sheriff who is on her way out can protect her special people by moving them to protected positions.  I may not be an important person or have any specialized training in law or politics but from my layman’s perspective what Susan Pamerleau did sure looks like political payback to me.

What Does Reyes Want?

Here I was a little bit shocked.  According to the KSAT12 article Henry Reyes wants reinstatement to “an appropriate civil service position in which he will be protected from reprisal and to cease and desist from discharging him on the basis of political support or lack thereof.”  He is also asking for monetary damages for “back pay, loss of earnings, loss of payment for accrued vacation and leave, loss of benefits, loss of standing and reputation in the community, expenses of job search and moving, mental anguish, loss of health and medical expenses.”  

Monetary Claims.

Henry Reyes was a lieutenant with the Sheriff’s Office before he was promoted to a chief position by Pamerleau.  Everyone at the Sheriff’s Office understands how the exempt, appointed positions work.  When Reyes accepted the chief position he had to know that if Pamerleau lost he could very well be without a job.  He could even have been without a job if she chose to terminate him while she was still the sheriff.  Remember, those positions serve at the will of the sheriff.  Henry Reyes knew that.

Why is he blaming his loss of earnings on Sheriff Salazar?  That is something he should have been preparing for all along the way every other appointee does.  How is his lack of preparation the Sheriff’s fault?  Or is he trying to say that from the very beginning Pamerleau had promised to take care of him so he would have no need to worry about finances?  I hope not.  It would seem to me that would speak of a political deviousness that I would hate to attribute to Susan Pamerleau.

Loss of Reputation.

Henry Reyes Files Lawsuit
Henry Reyes Facebook page

Henry Reyes isn’t just claiming a loss of money.  He also states he lost standing and reputation in the community and suffered mental anguish.  This is another thing that doesn’t make sense to me.  Again, he knew that he could be without a job if the political winds were not in Pamerleau’s favor.  He was appointed to the exempt position of a deputy chief.  He was not crowned king for life.  If no longer being a chief was going to cause such mental anguish he should not have accepted the position in the first place.

And if he was truly worried about losing standing and reputation in the community I doubt he would have posted this picture, that makes him look like some kind of gang member, on his Facebook page.  A picture that was up when he was actively a chief in the Pamerleau administration.  Where was his concern for his standing and reputation in the community back then?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *