Bexar County's Community Supervision and Corrections Department Director Bill Fitzgerald sent out a late morning e-mail saying, "It has come to my understanding that this process has been misunderstood in a way that has caused unnecessary confusion."
A group of probation officers who are suing over the interviews declared a partial victory at the news. "They're being called off because my clients sued him. What he did was flagrantly retaliatory," lawyer David Van Os alleged.
Fitzgerald has contended all along that the interviews were not in retaliation, but an effort to improve the department.
Fitzgerald's announcement that he would reinterview every employee in Adult Probation caused great consternation when he sent it out in a terse e-mail just before the winter holidays. People were told they would have to reapply for their jobs and be interviewed starting in January.
Fitzgerald later said the process was so that he could better understand his people's issues, and that no one would be fired. He just wanted everyone to take it seriously, and was slowly working his way through the department in alphabetical order.
But many in the department that already struggles with low pay, high workload and a lot of internal politics saw the move as a threat in reaction to some officers' attempt to organize with Service Employees International Union. They'd had a meeting scheduled with Fitzgerald that he had canceled shortly before sending out the memo. Fitzgerald has said that he is not against unionizing.
The activist officers continued to work with SEIU for a while, then broke off that relationship and have begun meeting with United Steel Workers representatives. Several also filed the lawsuit against Fitzgerald, demanding that he stop the interviews and hear them out on their concerns.
But that won't end the litigation. "There are some other aspects of my clients' lawsuit that this action of today does not deal with," Van Os said.
Uh, gee, Mr. Fitzgerald, it's just NOW come to your "understanding" that the interviews were perceived as hostile? Hmmmmm. Was it the employee protests, the barrage of negative media, or the lawsuit that tipped you off?
See prior Grits coverage of this topic: