Last week, Gregory London got his job back. The Precinct 1 deputy constable had been fired in 2011 along with 16 of his peers after a county audit of the constabulary's GPS units concluded that the officers had lied about their whereabouts, saying they were serving, say, an eviction notice at a given location while their vehicles were somewhere else. Another 11 deputies resigned or retired during the course of the investigation.
The timing of the firings was suspicious, coming as they did after several deputies blew the whistle on Constables Derick Evans and Jaime Cortez for a towing scheme and illegal raffles. Renee Christian, president of the Dallas County Constables Association, said it was retaliation, pure and simple.
Thirteen of the fired deputies filed grievances through the county's Civil Service Commission, a three-member board appointed by the Commissioners Court. You can read them after the jump. Of those, London's is the only one to be successful, though that's not because the other claims were necessarily without merit.
Four of the firings under appeal were upheld by the commission, one of them because the appellant, David Belcher, failed to show up for the hearing. One grievance, filed by Robert Suits, was withdrawn, while an appeal by Brett Miller is open pending a decision by the Commissioners Court. The other five cases -- all, like London's, involving deputies fired by Evans -- never made it to a hearing because deputy constables hired after August 19, 2003, are excluded from the civil service system.
If that date seems arbitrary, that's because it is. Deputy constables began receiving civil service protection in 1990, but the Commissioners Court quietly voted to end the practice in 2003 after a costly lawsuit brought after newly elected Constable Mike Dupree refused to swear in three deputies.
Commissioners made noises about changing the policy in 2010 as Cortes' and Evans' deputies began losing their jobs, but no action was taken. The result is that a large percentage of the deputies who were fired have no recourse short of a lawsuit, at least one of which is making its way through the courts.
Christian, the DCCA president, has a lot of problems with the civil service grievance process. For one, the commission is appointed by the Commissioners Court, which has a definite interest in protecting the county. Beyond that, arbitrarily barring employees from the process, particularly when there is strong circumstantial evidence that they were retaliated against for ratting out their bosses, is an affront to due process.
"I think we have grounds for a very strong lawsuit against Dallas County," Christian said.
Evans was just convicted of engaging in organized crime, but he's still constable until a judge decides his appeal. The same can't be said of five of the men he fired.
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