Sunday, July 26, 2009

UA lab workers in Bexar allegedly took bribes but no one reported crimes

Apparently the private lab providing urinalysis services to the Bexar probation department has more problems than just a shocking number of false positives; a couple of lab workers have been accused of taking bribes in exchange for false negatives, but nobody thought to inform police or prosecutors about the corruption and fraud. Reports the SA Express News ("Alleged bribery never probed," July 26):

Two technicians at a local urinalysis lab were terminated earlier this year after being accused of taking bribes from Bexar County probationers in exchange for clean drug tests, officials confirmed.

But police, prosecutors and judges were not notified of either the terminations or the allegations, which came on the heels of other controversies involving Victoria-based Treatment Associates, a urine-testing facility used by the Bexar County Community Supervision and Corrections Department.

Sheri Simonelli, president of the Central Texas Association of Public Employees, the probation officers' union, said two female lab technicians were accused in November of trading clean urine tests for $20 each. The technicians, who were not identified, were fired four months later.

Simonelli said probation officers have complained that Chief Probation Officer Bill Fitzgerald and his deputy, Kathleen Cline, didn't inform law enforcement authorities of the allegations.

“There was enough evidence to prosecute,” said Simonelli, who has a wrongful termination lawsuit pending against Fitzgerald and Cline.

Simonelli was terminated last year, shortly after she publicly accused Fitzgerald of not addressing probation officers' concerns about faulty drug tests. Former deputy probation chief Paul Kosierowski last week filed a wrongful termination suit alleging, among other things, that he, too, was terminated for speaking out about the drug tests.

Between the false positives and allegedly corrupt lab workers, it's hard to understand why the Bexar Probation department hasn't terminated this contract many months ago, much less why they wouldn't report bribery allegations to the authorities.

What's more, this isn't the first time officials discovered alleged corruption at the same urinalysis firm: "In 2004, the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated claims that a Treatment Associates lab technician gave clean urine tests to federal probationers in exchange for sex. Adrian Barrientos was convicted and sentenced the next year."

Apparently district judges in Bexar see nothing wrong with the probation department tolerating corruption among its vendors. District Judge Raymond Angelini told the paper “It wasn't up to [Bill Fitzgerald] to investigate” because “Treatment Associates was responsible for investigating its own employees.”

I don't buy that for a second, though! Who believes that if the probation department discovers that its vendor is engaging in bribe-taking and fraud, they have no obligation to report the crime? Next they'll tell us law enforcement shouldn't pursue charges against Barrio Azteca members because it's up to the gang leader to alert authorities of any wrongdoing.

Perhaps understandably, since they were the ones being left in the dark, the local DA's office has been the source of the most vociferous criticisms over this fiasco:

Because of Treatment Associates' troubled history, the union, some local judges and prosecutors said Bexar County should cease its contract with the company.

“They need to get a different company or confirm the samples or do something to show testing is reliable,” said First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg.

The District Attorney's Office last year adopted a policy that prohibits prosecutors from filing motions to revoke probation based solely on a single dirty urine test. Prosecutors now require a second test to confirm the results.

Probation officials and prosecutors have yet to agree on who should pay for the follow-up tests.

“Basically,” Herberg said, “there hasn't been anything done by the probation department to alleviate the lack of trust in the testing system.”

Finally, arguably the most significant development mentioned in the story was Paul Kosierowski filing a wrongful termination lawsuit last week claiming he was fired for complaining about flaws in the urinalysis lab. Paul K was formerly the number two man under Bill Fitzgerald and was widely respected among his peers and others around the state in the probation profession. Lending his voice to substantive legal critiques of the director in court is an even more ominous development than the many other suits against the department.

A reader sent me a copy of Kosierowski's suit which I've yet to read, but when your former #2 decides to take you to court, there's clearly great cause for concern. Litigation by probation officers or the union is one thing, but Fitzgerald's former second in command is more likely to know details of top-level decisions and have a pretty good idea where most of the bodies are buried.

Note to readers from Bexar CSCD: I know these are emotional issues, but please refrain from name calling and ad hominem attacks, whether they're about co-workers or agency management. Try to discuss the issues, not personalities.


Anonymous said...

I have a perfect several ewxample of the poor work from the lab. I however, will not mention names of defendants or judges, because of ethical issues. Aprox one month ago I had a female whom was positive for methamphetamines. A Violation Report was submitted to the Court. This Violation Report was return and per the order of the Court a MTR was to be amended. Well needless to say the MTR was amended and therefore a week later the defnedant was arrested on the amended. The Court had ordered her bond to be increased from the orignal bond. Later, this defendant maintain that she has not been using. She was advised; that she is free to request a confirmation. She did and approx a couple weeks later the results were received and guess what. The results showed there was no amphetamines present. So bottom line this person was arrested on a false positive UA, but according to the department this does not happen.

Secondly the labs work is really shotty by the sfollowing: 1) names are misspelled, 2) dated are incorrect, and 3) they send emails reflecting that the defendant has not submitted and later then state this same defendant did in deed submit on the date in question. Yet we as Officers are to have faith in this place. If I could remember back to Feb. when the lab was started im sure I could list more problems. But then why should I, nobody from Chief, Judges, and Prosecutors seem to care because these defendants dont have the money to back up there claims.

Now, I would like to see and Ms Cline can say there is no such thing as a false positive as she did in her deposition.

Anonymous said...

Lets not forget about the 15,000 urinalysis that were thrown down the drain under the direct orders of Bill Fitzgerald and his management team which included Paul Kosierowski. Hey Paul K. have you gone to the F.B.I. about that COVER-UP. Do you plan on being a WHISTLEBLOWER concerning the truth on that one. No need to worry about being FIRED since you were FIRED for something else. Had those same urinalysis been tested, that would have come to 75,000 individual DRUG test. Why did'nt the D.A.'S office investigate and prosecute those individuals involved in that cover-up. This incident occurred before Treatment Associates was awarded the contract. I am sorry, FOLKS, but all the Criminal Court Judges are to blame for Fitzgerald &
all those LAWSUITS. Fitzgerald needs to be FIRED not today or tomorrow but YESTERDAY.

Anonymous said...

If the Judges dont fire his butt. Then maybe they should be fired next election. I know for one I will be out block walking and working the phone banks for those that the union support. May the new Judges will take some sort of action against Bill. As for that Judge in the 187th DC - you remember the one that was arrested for DWI - oh and it was dismissed - go figure. He may have a tough go this election. We will see, right Angelini, amongst others that support Bill 110%.

Anonymous said...

After reading the article and being a citizen of Bexar County, Judge Angelini you have embarassed your county and your bench! If you cannot see this then open your eyes. Sounds like something bigger that is dirty is going on for a judge to protect that probation boss. The probation heads need to be charged and fired!!!

Anonymous said...

Remember one thing SAN ANTONIO and it's BEXAR county residents. When Bill Fitzgerald arrived in SAN ANTONIO, TX in November 2004, he brought with him his own AT-WILL philosophy: All Bexar County Probation Department employees (Probation Officers & Support staff) you have no Rights and or Due process-Mess with me & my cronies and YOUR FIRED!!!! No questions asked!!!
Come before & up until election time, the VOTERS of BEXAR COUNTY will know which Criminal Court Judges support FITZGERALD and which support the Adult Probation Officers.
Least we forget about about what happened to two former sibling County Court at Law Judges WAYNE & MELISSA (M'LISS) Christian. Due to M'LISS public expose about her romantic & corrupt relationship with an attorney, the PUBLIC got so feed up with the bad press that neither M'LISS or her brother WAYNE were re-elected in the next ELECTION.
I am sorry to say but the Honorable Judge WAYNE CHRISTIAN was handed a bad rap. Judge Christian was a GOOD & FAIR Judge and he should have been re-elected. Judge Christian would WIN a JUDGESHIP if he ran against a FITZGERALD SUPPORTED for example (County Court at Law #1-Al Alonzo, #2-Paul Canalas, #5-Timothy Johnson & #7-Monica Guerrero).
To Bill Fitzgerald and all the County Court at Law Judges in Bexar County who support him. The VOTERS of BEXAR are no dummies!!! Far from it!. We as Tax Paying, Law abiding and Common Sense folk have more power of AT WILL then Fitzgerald & his cronies and all you EMBARRASSING Criminal Court Judges. I am ashamed to live in a County such as Bexar whom it's JUDGES have allowed an outsider (Fitzgerald from the state of ARIZONA) to MESS WITH TEXAS and get away with what he has done to the BEXAR COUNTY ADULT PROBATION DEPARTMENT and it's EMPLOYEES.
Governor Rick Perry-you proclaim to be an AGGIE and a TRUE TEXAN. Well DAMM IT!! Act like a true TEXAS!!!!!!!!!!! and investigate what the HELL is going on at the ADULT PROBATION DEPARTMENT IN BEXAR COUNTY. EIGHT LAWSUITS and counting against this Fitzgerald. Did the Criminal Division at the Attorney Office have its own BARN-FIRE collapse?????????????????????????

Governor Perry-THE EYES OF TEXAS ARE UPON YOU AS WELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Ok....Susan Reed and Commissioners you need to step up or step out!!! Reed you have to turn on your buddy Judge Angelini. He sounds stupid and you will also soon. Open that Nico La Hood door!

Lopez and Connally did far less and were charged!

Anonymous said...

Elections are not far off!
You who support Fitzgerald, Cline, Sharp, Boor, Edwards, Esquivel, Monsivais and the $50,000 10 hour per week and the part-timer Abbott and managers will pay the price for ignoring civil and criminal behavior by this administration.
Fire him or else!!!

Anonymous said...

Aren't Treatment Associates owner Jeff Warner and a manager of the probation dept. "best friends"? Sounds fishy to me!

Anonymous said...


One blogger has a real good point!
We have one employee who is retired and under contract. The contract is for one day a week at 50,oo a year? The emploee has a PHD is education and everyone calls him DOC??? That would be a 250,000 a year job?? The city manager does not make that much.
We could point out things all night that are wrong. With a layoff loom this stinks?

Here is another one.. The new Diversion Programs call for home visits but Fitzgerald will not let officers enter homes. This is not helping the defendant? The defendant needs to understand we may come in and check their room for drugs, weapons or gang helps keep the defendant straight and then before you know it the defendant turns the criminal behavior around and whala no prison.

You tell the probationer what you expect. You treat them fair and with respect and you hold them to the court order and hope to keep them at home and away from prison.
You dont make the rules a joke and one day enforce them and the next day not. You mean what you say and you keep your word to the judges! If the judges think you are in the homes checking things out and you are not....You tell the judge the truth!!!

Anonymous said...

The issue is after reading # 15 and #16 from Paul K's lawsuit and then the failure to report the possible bribery. It becomes clear to me Reed needs to charge.

Sheriff Lopez was charged for far less. I do think the FBI should be called in if Reed does not take action.

I think this is clear cut. The charges are there. Let a jury decide.

Also, I feel Fitzgerald had a duty to tell the judges about the false positives and then the bribes. He did neither. Paul K did alert the judges early on and then Fitz shut him down.

Im waiting to see what Reed does this week??

More coming Grits another couple of witnesses have entered the case. Federal charges need to be filed. We here one of the plantiffs will file federal criminal charges. We will let you know. This is all so very sad.

The officers were screaming retaliation and no one then can prove it all.

Grits...I think you will see it is worse than you thought. I think the judges deserve some of the attacks they get. However, some have been fooled by the spin from the department and really need to sit down with the officers and hear them out.

Communication works wonders!

Anonymous said...

In every article you post about the Bexar County Probation Department there is a mention of the union. In every article a union leader is quoted or provides information. In every article the union leaders words are accepted as fact. In every artcle the union is presented as the only answer to the department problems.

Sherri Simonelli is quoted as saying "There was enough evidence to prosecute." You can find other quotes and information provided in past Bexar articles that make allegations of wrong doing. The pattern is the same. Make allegations without providing verification to back it up.

...If there is proof some urine samples were tested incorrectly, show it to us.

...If Sherri has proof she was fired illegally, show it to us.

...If the union has proof the contract between Bexar Probation and Treatment Associates is faulty then show the readers.

I am sure the arguement will be made the information can not be revealed due to pending lawsuits. That is all well and good but it leaves us with nothing.

Many union members were relying on the Steve Lara lawsuit to make a great impact.I am glad for Steve Lara but what has his victory done for the union? What has the union done for Steve Lara? His suit was private and had nothing to do with the union. Not a ripple was felt when Steve Lara returned to work.

How long will the union press the issue of the UA's and Treatment Associates? A union is meant to provide support to employees. A battle over UA procedure and contracts does not impact an employee's life nearly as much as other issues.Let the defendant's and their attorneys correct this problem.

Is the union even interested in the Bexar County Courts cutting some funds from the Bexar County Probation budget? This could result in positions being left unfilled or eliminated. Where does the union president stand on this issue? When will we hear a public statement from the union president concerning this matter?

The union is busy getting all kinds of documents using the Public Information Act. Why not get the Bexar County Court Policy on how payments by people on probation are allocated to the Probation Office. Even better yet, make the policy available to employees.

Anonymous said...

Last Blogger,

I dont understand where you are coming from. Do your own research. Unions don't show their info to the public??? It is a membership??? Im not a union expert but you seem to be confused. You assume the Probation association is starting all this....not true. I dont know who started all this but it is not the probation officers association?
Do your own open records info. request? The info you seek in avail. Call the Probation Officers Association maybe they will share?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To the commenter from management at 7:40 -

The quotes from the union were mostly from MSM coverage where management was also quoted, when they'd deign to comment. Problem is, their response is usually inadequate. Saying "it's not my job" to report that the UA vendor's employees were taking bribes in exchange for false negatives is gross negligence, or more accurately, knowing indifference.

I don't think I ever said the union is the answer to every problem. But in the case of Bill Fitzgerald, I believe his attitude toward his employees is indicative of why HE is the problem. Bexar County district judges need to ship this guy back to Phoenix.

The whole fiasco of threatening to fire all his employees and force them to reapply for their jobs right before Christmas 2007 was unimaginably stupid and he had to back off after wasting loads of time and money on pointless litigation (which is still piling up). And his indifference toward the problems with the UA vendor - both alleged bribe taking and knowingly tolerating false positives - stinks to high heaven.

Re unions and litigation, Steve Lara, etc., I don't know enough details to comment about whether that's the best strategic focus. But I can tell you, for example, that at the major police unions like CLEAT and TMPA, litigation over individual officers cases is the main thing they do, especially in (most) departments where they don't have collective bargaining. And those guys are generally considered very effective.

I'm not saying the union is always the solution, but I'm damn sure saying current management is the problem.

Anonymous said...

Under normal circumstances, a union would focus on the issues of wages, hours of work, and working conditions. However, the situation in Bexar Co probation is anything but normal. The employees of Bexar Co Probation,regardless of whether you are union, non-union, management, etc., should be thankful they have an employees union that has the guts to take on a morally corrupt chief and organization. No one else will provide this check and balance. Whether you agree with the union or not, you should all be able to agree that the chief and his judge supporters need to be swept out of office for the greater good of the department and community.

Anonymous said...

To Grits:

Your comments concerning Mr. Fitzgerald and management nailed it on the head. I want to thank you for allowing this blog site to exist. Without it, there would not be a place to express ourselves. I am an employed Adult Probation Officer in Bexar County. I have known officer Steve Lara for over 20 years. In 2006, he was wrongfully terminated and was thrilled when he won his job back. Officer Lara, thank you for all that you have done and yes, your lawsuit did make a difference.

Anonymous said...

Ms Cline states they have fixed the problems with the UA lab. I would like to reuqest, WHEN. This issue with the bribes - I have a defendant whom back in Marh or April came in and told me he was offered to be given a clean UA for $20.00. He basicly told them to F___ off he does not use drug. This defendant was asked if he would have a problem taling to one of our ADMINSTRATORS in regards to this isse. he, replied no. I then took him to Ms Boore and was present when he spoke to her - he advised her of this. she replied she would look into this issue and thanked him. obviously this was not done. oh yea ms Boore i turned this info over to our atty Mr Dave Van Ose. Also you should be aware this was documented in teh filed since yall are so big on documentation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your blog.

Viva La Grits

Check out the video on the UA lab last night.

I don't think the union wants to be the solution. They just saw what was going on and stepped up. They dont get paid for the work and care about the community, worker's and probationers.

I think the bloggers that support the current way of doing business in the Bexar can only be someone who may loose their job or someone scorned. Rational thinkers would not support the monkey business going on with the management. You can only get away with wrongdoing for so long then it bites.

The kens5 probationer that talks about how the wrong drug comes back is still the norm. Fitz shut down the outcry and the results are still questionable. The defendants settle to do counseling for a dirty UA instead of fighting it. Is it because they think the judges support Fitz or just scared.

Who knows?? Things still are in a bad situation. No one cares if the innocent go to jail and it is sad. Very sad. No officer would dare breathe these facts. They know what happens.