Saturday, January 06, 2007

Bexar probation chief plays Scrooge over holidays

Thanks to the Bexar County probation officer who notified me of the remarkable feud going on between that county's adult probation chief Bill Fitzgerald and his staff over the holidays. My source reports that "We asked for the chief to resign on Wednesday night after officers had a no confidence vote." Fitzgerald declined to resign, and the standoff continues.

What brought this on? Just before Christmas, Fitzgerald fired off a memo announcing the entire staff must re-apply for their jobs. It read:
"Please be advised that beginning Jan. 8, 2007, retention interviews will be scheduled with all employees, including administrators (At-Will Employees) ... . These interviews will be conducted by an interview committee chaired by me and may be videotaped. Every employee who would like to be considered for continued employment with this agency must fill out an application with our H.R. office and submit it to H.R. by 5 p.m. on January 5th."
So 430 people were told at Christmastime that their jobs were in jeopardy in the new year! No wonder columnist Roddy Stinson gave Chief Fitzgerald the "Ebeneezer Scrooge Award" in response. Jaime Castillo reported that Fitzgerald "sent out the memo two days after he backed out of a meeting with employees who submitted a petition demanding he sit down with them and a union organizer over "serious health and safety issues," and that many of the judges who are his supervisors weren't notified.

The big safety issue concerning officers appears to be Fitzgerald's decision last year to disarm Bexar P.O.s.. Reported the Express-News:

The workers ... say they fear for their safety without their sidearms.

"We've always carried weapons ... So, for him to come in and take it away ... Once you go out there with guns, and then you don't go back out there with guns again, it's a bit of a difference," probation officer Cheri Simonelli said.

I'd have to side with the P.O.s on that. Think about it: Any law-abiding Texan can get a concealed carry permit and tote a gun, but probation officers can't have them doing field work? It's one thing if P.O.s spend all their time in the office, and certainly many do, but under initiatives for stronger probation, they'll be doing more direct field supervision and carrying a gun in those instances, should they choose to, doesn't seem unreasonable.

It's hard to tell from the media coverage why Fitzgerald is doing this. My P.O. source says the reason is pure union busting:
we are trying to form a union under SEIU and 134 employees sent the chief a petition asking for a meeting to discuss health, safety and economic factors. He said he would meet, then canceled, then said he would never meet with us! Then all had to reapply for their job! Its retaliation!
Fitzgerald said opposing unionization wasn't his motive, but if there's another credible reason for doing this, I can't think of it, and he hasn't revealed it during any of the media coverage. Like County Court at Law Judge Tim Johnson I wonder, "You've been working with these people for three years. Why on earth do you suddenly need to re-interview everybody?"

Why indeed?
Fitzgerald may soon learn that a probation director suffers from an odd and tenuous political position. Johnson and 20 other Bexar judges collectively are Fitzgerald's bosses on his governing board. All of them have close working relationships with P.O.s in their court, but not necessarily Fitzgerald. So frequently probation chiefs, like police chiefs, find that their officers have more influence with their bosses than they do.

I don't know what Fitzgerald thinks he's doing, but it looks to me like he's overplayed his hand.

UPDATE: More from the Sunday Express-News.

25 comments:

Jason said...

What a dick! No surprise he got a no confidence vote. Good post.

Anonymous said...

If this is not retaliation i dont know what is. Kind of like the saying "if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck (quack -quack), smells like a duck. It must be a duck. Therefore, its retalition. look at the time line here.

We submit a pettion of a 134 Officers (cc to commisioners court and all criminal court judges) with issues that concern us like the following: work safety, economic, healthcare, ect. Within 20 minutes he states he will meet with us and the seiu union reps. Then a couple of days later he sends an email through out the department stating he will not meet with us or any union reps. Two days prior to the christmass holidays he sent an email stating if you would like to be considred for future employment with this department you must reapply for your current job. Then the media blitz happen. Then he tells the media, no one will loose there job I simply want to meet with my employees and get to know them better. If that is really the case why does he not come out of his office and chat with us more often. The only time I see him is when he arrives to work, when we pass on the way to the restroom, and when he leaves for the day.

Let me remind the District Court Judges of one thing, they are at will too, by the citazens of Bexar County. We need your help here (here is our cry). Do they (District Court Judges) honestly think the criminals vote. I dont think so. The voters or probation officers and there family, and attornies. Ones whom cares for there community. Criminals dont care for the commuinty they care only for themselves.

This Chief doesn't think twice about reminding us we are at will employes - but does he ever come out of his castle and simply walk down the halls to tell us good job. NO. simply that we are AT WILL.

I am a concern citazen and probation officer of the Bexar County Probation Department. I'm not one to complain and wine but when he took this action against us it was an action against the Community as well. We gave this man 3 years. Look what we get for being LOYAL.

sunray's wench said...

So technically, he could decide not to rehire ANY of the existing P.Os, if they all say they are in favour of a union.... leaving Bexar with no probation staff at all? How did that man get such power? Who is HIS superior, and what are THEY doing about it all?

Anonymous said...

The judges need to do the right thing and vote this guy out of town. A probation officer works hard and to have to deal with this guy as your leader! I read todays article. This Alonzo guy thinks the chief probation officer got all this new funding- someone inform him it was a state-wide movement.

Anonymous said...

THE BUS HAS CRASHED!!! The Chief of the Bexar Community Supervision and Corrections Department Officer has brought to the forefront the inequality of the Probation system in Texas. His employees are not employees of the State of Texas or Bexar County or the City of San Antonio! Therefore he feels he doesn't have to follow the departmental standard operating rules, as evidenced by several employees he has attempted to fire and some he has. So what are they, "the forgotten". The county and district courts judges of Bexar County, the county of Bexar and the State of Texas all tell them what rules to follow, what to do at their job and what funds to collect. But nobody wants them! It's time for the legislature to stand up and do what is RIGHT!! Re-write article 42.12 and 42.13 and make the employees of the adult probation/C.S.C.D. either State or County employees, who have rights afforded to all county and state employees. Take the Judges out of the equation and hold the Chief's accountable. Remember that once you anger the voting public, you will pay the price come electiomn time! Mr. Fitzgerald takes credit for pay increases that were due the employees back in 2000-2001. The previuos tyrant, Chief L. Caesar Garcia had refused, saying," there is no money available for pay increases". Yet he and his INEPT finance officers had sent hundreds of thousand dollars back to the Criminal Justice Assistance Division of the State of Texas. Where were the judges back then? Absent as they seem to be in 2007! Where is the State of Texas legislature now?? Wait and see, the HORRIBLE JOURNEY continues for the em[ployees of Bexar County C.S.C.D. And you thought you had it bad. As a side note: The judges in Bexar County will not hold probationers accountable for failing to pay their Court ordered Supervisory fees, which is a major source of funding for the department!!!!!!!! But they continue to collect Court Costs on Deferred Adjudication cases, which, I believe is against the law! Remember to vote!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

It would seem that if this Fitzgerald guy is not working under a contract, then technically he is also "at will". His bosses, the judges, need to order him to re-apply for continued employment. As for Alonzo, it's good to know he has the best interests of druggies in mind instead of the interests of the Probation Officers who work hard to monitor them. I guess his kingdom is Fantasy Land.

Anonymous said...

Who watches these judges for negligence!!! The state needs to step in and help these officers!This chief needs to hit the road Jack!

Anonymous said...

FITZGERALD SAID THAT HE IS GOING TO TAKE THE TIME TO INTERVIEW PROBATION OFFICERS IN ORDER TO OBTAIN "FEEDBACK"! WELL, MR FITZGERALD IN ORDER TO CRAFT A "BEST PRACTICES" MANAGEMENT PHILOSOPHY ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS WALK AROUND THE BUILDINGS YOU OVERSEE! YOU WILL NOTICE THE 8 TO 9 FILEING CABINETS WHICH HAVE "CONFIDENTAL FILES" BEING STORED IN HALLWAYS NEXT TO THE BATHROOM WHERE DEFENDANT'S WAIT IN LINE FOR URINE TESTING! ANYONE EVER MISSING FILES?? JUST 10 FEET FROM THE FILES IS THE RESTROOM WHICH IS USED TO TAKE SAMPLES OF URINE FROM DEFENDANTS. WHEN NOT IN USE BY THE LAB, THE BATHROOM IS USED BY OFFICERS AND IS NEVER SECURED. IN THE BATHROOM IS A DESK WITH EMPTY URINE TESTING BOTTLES WHICH ARE USED FOR TESTING AND WHICH ARE NOT SEALED. THE BOTTLES ARE NOT SECURED AND CAN BE HANDLED BY ANYONE WHO ENTERS THE BATHROOM! OK! MR FITZGERALD "GRAPPLE WITH THIS PROBLEM HEAD ON"!

Anonymous said...

apogu1

Anonymous said...

Sunray's wench- The District and County Court Judges are in charge of this nutcase. So- they are the ones who can fire him. Our judges in my county would never let our chief do this! Seems like most of the Bexar Judges are out of touch with the hand that feeds them? Glad they don't protect my county!

Anonymous said...

Bill has had three years to "get to know" the officers better. It would help a lot if he would ever come out of his office. Then he would discover that there are acutal live officers in offices all around him, many of them in the same building! Or, being the boss he also has the ability to ask any of the officers into his office at any time. There's plenty of room.
This is a poor way to "get to know" his employees, by threatening their livlihoods.
Bill's attitude of "keep everything away from me" has completely destroyed the department's morale. His Deputy Chief is scared to bring stuff to him, and that makes his Assistant Chief's scared to bring anytning to either him or the Dep Chief. Bill says problems should be addressed using the chain-of-command, but that doesn't work when he refuses to be a part of that chain.
The articles are correct in saying Bill is not an animal. He is a very nice man with good intentions. This job is just way too much for him to handle, not just recently but from day one. He needs to step down so someone who can handle all the problems (including the morale problems) can take charge.

Anonymous said...

Good luck Bexar County Officers! This chief needs to resign. Your point are valid and concerning. I'm sure the Judge's will fire this chief because I feel these issues are not going away. You need a good leader with good communication skills and a heart.

Anonymous said...

I am a 13+ year veteran officer of the Bexar County Adult Probation Dept. Our chief should get the hint by now that he will not be able to re-gain the support and trust of the employees of this department. If he cared anything about the direction of this department, he would resign. He would leave the task to someone willing to work with these officers who manage the cases of some of the worst criminals of our community, and listen to their issues. These issues of our pay and safety could easily be handled by administration and officers working together, but it has snow-balled due to no communication with the chief. He has been dodging issues, first with the Departmental Review Board (a committee he created, but then failed to meet with--which has now disbanded), and now most recently with concerned officers and a union rep.

My fellow officers are hardworking, dedicated, college educated professionals who give their best daily for a community they live in and care about. It is an insult of great magnitude to have to re-apply for a position, when we know how much we are underpaid. Feeling unappreciated is a general concensus among officers. I'm wondering why his bosses--the judges--don't step up and put an end to this nonsense.

Anonymous said...

SHAME ON YOU BEXAR COUNTY COMMISSIONERS COURT!! YOU ALLOW JUDGE KAZEN TO MAKE A STATEMENT ABOUT "TEXAS POLITICS" AND JUDGE ALONZO REFERS TO THE COURTS AS "KINGDOMS". THEN MELISSA BARLOW FISHER BLASTS JUDGE NELSON WOLFF!! THIS WHOLE MESS SOUNDS LIKE DUVAL COUNTY IN THE 1970'S. THE FOX IS GUARDING THE HEN HOUSE!! TEXAS RANGERS STEP IN...BEXAR IS OUT OF CONTROL.

Anonymous said...

Senator Whitmire? You already had one run in with this idiot, didn't you? See any reason now to step and help get this chief out and get departments to belong to either state or county. This chief is also excessively overpaid. Bexar County Judges nice way to waste tax payer money and ignore working tax papers. I think this one will bite 21 judges in the butt.

Anonymous said...

SOS- PLEASE HELP STATE REPS AND SENATORS. GET THIS CHIEF BACK TO ARIZONA AND OUT OF TEXAS.

Anonymous said...

You would think that by now that the District Court Judges would have settled the matter between Bill Fitzgereld and his Probation Officers! As a former probation officer, I can remember when Judges would rely on the Probation Department to resolve personal matters ,yet now the Judges use a recent House Bill 1326 as excuse to avoid stepping in to resolve this matter. Shame on you Susan Reed, remember when your Olmos Park residence was burglarized? Well, you asked the Chief Probation Officer to have his probation officers help find the suspects...wasn't that a job for Olmas Park Police?? Judge Mary Roman, remember when probation officers located you daughter who was living with a parole suspect? Yes, District Court Judges you have all required or have requested someting from the probation department and the officers have always been there for you! Judges,it's your turn to step up to the plate and take back the Probation Department from Bill Fitzgerald and allow the officers to continue to promote public safety for the tax payers of Bexar County!

Anonymous said...

What about the Frost Bank Account and all the supervision fee interest money?? What happen to all the back pay / or pay discrepancies with the March 2001 pay raise signed by Judge Roman? Did all that get worked out? Or is it still pending?

Anonymous said...

What if the previous Director of Probation was corrupt, and Fitzgerald (current Director) was brought in as a flunky to buy time and distance for some of the judges who are liable for the previous corruption? It would certainly explain why they want to keep the bumbling, stumbling, fumbling Fitzgerald in place.

Anonymous said...

Poor Bill! He can't help it. He was born with a tequilla bottle in his mouth. He must be drunk trying to run his department the way he has. Oh, for those of you wondering about the interviews? He is wasting everyone's time, asking non-work related questions like "what bus are you going to ride?" or "where are you going to sit on the bus?" No witch hunt? Bulls&^t! When are the judges going to put the muzzle on this dog, and castrate him? Hey judges, you have the power to get rid of him (or maybe he has the power over you, what could he possibly have on any of you that would prevent you from doing your jobs..mmmmm?) GET WITH IT AND SEND HIM PACKING!

BobZ said...

State agencies are particularly abusive with the "employment at will" law in Texas.I have seen employees get terminated for making a photcopy of a retirement party,getting terminated for making too mny typing errors (when the employee was not emplyed as a typist but a manager),asking for a salary increase,reporting porr operations (but the department head of that group was a "political appointee"),audits being "redone" so at will employees could be terminated,etc...Fitzgerald would not be allowed to use his position to terminate or intimidate professionals if "employment at will" did not exist in this state.It is abused continuously.Professionals should be judged based on performance standards that are based in fact and not on "politics" on anger or the slightest whim of an admististrator.It appears that these officers could have a lawsuit,some protection under the law,a plave to file a grievance.....but under the "employment at will" law ,they can do nothing except have a public outcry for support.What if it was just one professional being treated like this? They couldn't get a ear anywhere.It happens in this state and in state government all too frequently and at the expense of the taxpayers and the professional who gets put out on the street and has a difficult time getting another position.Many times you'll find these "at will employees" get a choice of retiring,quitting or being terminated.What's the worst thing that can happen? The agency pays unempoyment benefits for 26 weeks.This sickens me as it continues in every state agency I know every week....

Anonymous said...

i've worked in the criminal justice system in san antonio for 26 years. i am not an outsider. personally, i liked the prior chief, garcia; however, he did nothing for his employees. he was a master at keeping his job by collecting information on his bosses, the judges. but he overplayed even his hand, so they forced him out and brought in a new guy who would be loyal to them; a man who wouldn't have the ability to pull bones from their closets and rattle them around in public. the new chief came here for the money, plain and simple. he may have turned down his most recent raise, having been caught at the trough red-handed, but he took almost $20K over his beginning salary when he first arrived. no one talks about this hidden bonus. since that time, he's done nothing for his employees. he has an assistant who dyes his hair and refers to senior female probation officers as "little lady." outwardly, he seems like a nice guy. the problem is that when your officers want to unionize and most of them have been there 4 or 5 times longer than the chief and they serve the chief with a pettion to do so, and his reaction 2 days later is childishly to threaten their jobs, and then when cornered his reaction is to claim he only wants to get to know his employees.........well, he's lied to his employees; he's lied to the public; he's lied to the media; and, he's lied to his bosses, the judges. instead of meeting and firing him for lying, most stand behind him because they remember his predecessor and how he did business with his bosses. so, they basically send a message to their probation officers, upon whom they rely on a daily basis, that they don't really give a rat's ass about them. they choose to back a man who insults the intelligence of his employees, the media, and the voters who elect them. the most amazing part of this "interview process" is that there are about 50 jobs in the probation office that have been unfilled for over a year. i'm sure this latest "recruiting measure" by the chief will do wonders to attract new employees. many of these probation officers have masters degrees. they're all college graduates. they're all underpaid. they're all there because they're dedicated to what they do and they're trying to make a difference in the community. they're not there for the money. quite frankly, the pay is beneath them. the chief came here for the money. he didn't come out of loyalty to the job or the community. i doubt if he'd ever been to san antonio before he interviewed for the job. 140 years ago, he'd have been called a "carpetbagger." it's one thing to be a mercenary, but damn, don't lie to people and insult their intelligence. own up to being a pissy little bully and tell everyone what you really think......that they can all go to hell and stick it up their ...! be a real bully. most of the judges are backing you and they'll let you get away with it because finally they have a chief probation officer they don't have to fear; one who is weaker and more vulnerable than they are.

Anonymous said...

MANY NEW OFFICERS INCLUDING MYSELF ARE NOW LOOKING ELSEWHERE - GOOD LUCK TO ANYONE LOOKING TO APPLY FOR THE DEPARTMENT - DON'T DO IT- YOU WILL REGRET IT- THANKS TO ALL THOSE JUDGES THAT CONTINUE TO ALLOW THIS IDIOT THE RIGHT TO CONTINUE WITH EMPLOYMENT - YOU CAN KEEP HIM - I AM OUT OF HERE...

OUT OF HERE said...

WE - NEW OFFICERS WERE PROMISED A $3,000 RAISE AND SHOULD SEE IT ON THE 15TH OF JANUARY - WELL, GUESS WHAT -WE DID NOT SEE SHIT - ANOTHER REASON WHY I AM OUT OF HERE

Anonymous said...

Officers need to stand strong and continue to fight.The Officers will prevail. Power to the officers!