Dallas County

(Updated) DCHHS Director Thompson Removed After Sexual Harassment Allegations

Zach Thompson was hired as director of Dallas County Health and Human Services in 2003.
Zach Thompson was hired as director of Dallas County Health and Human Services in 2003. Brian Maschino
Updated Jan. 8 with comments from Thompson's attorney, Anthony Lyons.

Dallas County fired Health and Human Services Director Zach Thompson after sexual harassment allegations made by another Dallas County employee, according to a press release from a law firm representing the woman.

"Our client has alleged a pattern and practice of sexual abuse, harassment, intimidation and retaliation by Mr. Thompson," the press release from the Spencer Scott Law Firm says, before accusing the county of taking too long to act on the accusations. "After receipt of the allegations, Dallas County officials failed to take adequate steps to rectify the situation and protect the victim."

James Hunnicutt, the attorney representing the unnamed woman, did not return a request for an interview from the Observer, but told WFAA that his client suffered both physical and verbal harassment from Thompson.

Word of Thompson's firing came out Thursday afternoon. Initial media reports said that the longtime administrator, on the job since 2003, was resigning effective Jan. 31, but a DCHHS spokeswoman later told the Observer that Thompson had been fired Dec. 29. Later Thursday evening, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins gave a third date for Thompson's firing — Jan. 3.

Attempts to reach Thompson via cell phone were unsuccessful Friday afternoon. His attorney, Anthony Lyons, told the Observer Monday that any allegations against his client are false. Contrary to statements from the county Lyons said, Thompson also never declined to participate in an investigation into the incidents. He and his client learned about the allegations against Thompson when the media began reporting on them, Lyons said.

"This is a "me too" environment and we haven't seen the end of this," Lyons said.

According to the statement from the accuser's attorneys, the woman intends to work with the county to make sure no additional employees suffer like she did and is eager to go back to work.

"We look forward to working with Dallas County officials to ensure safety, closure and justice for this employee and to ensure additional employees do not fall victim to the same harassment our client experienced," the statement says. "The termination of Mr. Thompson this week is a step forward for our client and a sign as to the serious nature and validity of her claim. She is eager to work in an environment without the constant mental anguish and fear of when the next instance of harassment or retaliation might occur."
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young