Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
The two leading officials overseeing Bexar County probation officers are allegedly involved in union-busting activities and have allegedly neglected staffing issues, according to union members and supporters who filed a lawsuit against those department leaders.
In a Friday news conference outside the County courthouse, members of the Bexar County Probation Officers Association and representatives of other local unions updated reporters on litigation against Jarvis Anderson and Brian Brady, the director and deputy director of the County Community Supervision and Corrections Department (BCCSCD).
The probation officers association is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit originally filed in U.S. District Court in December 2017, claiming that Anderson and Brady violated union members’ First Amendment rights to free speech and association related to union activities. Details about the lawsuit can be found here.
Other plaintiffs are United Steelworkers, United Steelworkers Local Union 9528, and Sergio Castilleja, a probation officer who in the mid-2000s helped form the probation officers association and had served as the union’s president.
The County unlawfully terminated Castilleja in January 2017, according to the lawsuit.
Representing Anderson and Brady, the Texas Attorney General’s Office recently filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez denied the motion, saying the lawsuit contains valid claims that Anderson’s firing of Castilleja was retaliation for his role as union president and for exercising his freedom of speech.
When he was employed, Castilleja had submitted to County criminal judges a no-confidence petition signed by department employees, asking them to remove Anderson as BCCSCD director.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office did not return the Rivard Report‘s requests for comment, and Anderson could not be reached via phone.
Elected by the public, County criminal judges are responsible for appointing and evaluating the department director and reviewing the department budget.
Rodriguez further ruled the lawsuit contains valid claims that Anderson had been intimidating union members, and that he violated the union’s right to equal protection under the law by showing favoritism to other employee organizations.
Speakers at Friday’s news conference also claimed that Anderson and Brady have overlooked staffing shortage issues, which the speakers said could threaten public safety because there would be fewer probation officers to supervise a workload that involves more than 30,000 criminal offenders living in Bexar County.
Local attorney David Van Os represents the plaintiffs in this lawsuit. He said Castilleja was the second union president probation officer department officials fired.
“It is a union-busting administration, it does not respect employees’ constitutional and legal rights to participate in a union of their choice, if they so choose,” Van Os said.
Linda Chavez-Thompson, the former executive vice president of AFL-CIO who also spoke at the news conference, said department employees have twice issued no-confidence votes to department leadership.
Chavez-Thompson explained that when Anderson presented the current fiscal year department budget to his supervising judges, he said department expenses had been slashed by $500,000 through the elimination of 20 positions, and that the department expected a decrease in state funds that it usually receives.
However, Chavez-Thompson added, five department administrators still got pay raises over the last year.
According to the County website, the BCCSCD staffs 300 community supervision officers, assistant supervisors, supervisors, and administrators. The support staff numbers more than 200.
Chavez-Thompson said County residents should be concerned whether the BCCSCD has the adequate number of personnel to conduct their duties.
“Let us remember that those on probation are getting seen, however, the probation officers cannot keep up because of a shortage of staff and because of overwhelming case loads,” she also said.
USW representative Marcos Valdez said the people gathered for the press conference “are educated professionals who take their responsibilities very seriously.”
“Obviously they’re here because they need help. They need the tools to be able to properly do their job,” Valdez added. “The community deserves more. The voters who elect the judges deserve more.”