Bexar County hires ombudsperson following string of complaints from employees

Bexar County hires ombudsperson following string of complaints from employees

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SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County officers have employed an ombudsperson following a string of inner and federal employment complaints in opposition to administration, the KSAT 12 Defenders have confirmed.

Allison Highley was employed October 28 and shall be beneath the path of County Supervisor David Smith.

The county’s job description for her new place states that she “will present advocacy for equity, supply of help, data and acts as liaison between conflicting events” and can “present impartial and confidential help to workers with the intention to resolve conflicts.”

County officers have thus far not launched particulars of Highley’s wage or why her hiring was not introduced earlier than county commissioners for approval.

A supply who was not approved to talk to media however has information of the contract advised KSAT Highley shall be paid $150,000 a yr by the county.

A LinkedIn profile for her states she has labored for the U.S. Division of Veterans Affairs since 2015, most not too long ago as chief counsel for the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Highley can be a former Equal Employment Alternative Fee practitioner, based on the profile.

A number of county workers briefed on the hiring of Highley have criticized the choice to have her report back to Smith as a result of he’s additionally the supervisor of Assistant County Supervisor Tina Smith-Dean, who has been named in 4 federal employment complaints since final fall.

These workers, who requested anonymity from KSAT out of concern of being focused by county management, say that hierarchy may very well be a battle of curiosity.

Assistant County Supervisor Tina Smith-Dean. (KSAT)

The newest, filed earlier this month by a longtime county worker, accuses Smith-Dean of retaliation, based on a number of sources.

A second worker who named Smith-Dean in two Equal Employment Alternative Fee (EEOC) complaints final yr, Alexandria Millan, was faraway from her funds analyst place in late Might and reassigned to the county’s buying division in one other constructing.

County officers have claimed Millan was reassigned as a result of she was uniquely certified to assist a number of county companies handle COVID-19-related expenditures.

Millan’s lawyer, nevertheless, stated the transfer was punishment for talking out in opposition to Smith-Dean, after Millan accused her of unfair therapy at work and retaliation.

Memo: Bexar County Supervisor David Smith directed workers to obtain absolution

A 3rd worker accused Smith-Dean late final yr of harassment and bullying as a part of an inner criticism.

An out of doors agency, Kelmar World Investigations, was introduced in to look at the allegations.

Smith subsequently knowledgeable the lawyer representing the girl who filed the criticism that Kelmar had concluded its report and, primarily based on a authorized evaluation of it by the district lawyer’s workplace, the allegations in opposition to Smith-Dean couldn’t be substantiated.

County officers have refused to launch a duplicate of the report and claimed in late Might that a few of the data was protected by attorney-client privilege. In late July, officers with the Texas Lawyer Basic’s Workplace dominated that the data may very well be withheld from the general public regardless of KSAT’s attraction.

County officers, to this point, have refused to substantiate how a lot cash was paid to Kelmar and its investigators to place the report collectively, regardless of repeated requests over a number of months from the Defenders asking for that data.

The worker has now filed a federal employment criticism in opposition to Smith-Dean associated to the identical allegations she made in her preliminary inner criticism.

That worker was given a proposed termination in early June, after she made the interior criticism, as a result of a number of co-workers stated she intimated them by recording video of them exterior an elevator within the Paul Elizondo Tower.

She retired weeks later, however has denied she was recording workers.

The hiring of Highley additionally comes after Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert earlier this yr requested that the county draft a whistleblower safety coverage “in order that any member of the county workers is protected against retaliation.”

Calvert didn’t reply to a number of requests in search of remark for this story.

Copyright 2020 by KSAT – All rights reserved.

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