SAN ANTONIO – It's a new year and in Bexar County it also means a new sheriff leading the Bexar County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff Javier Salazar, a 23-year veteran of the San Antonio Police Department, took over the reins from Susan Pamerleau just after midnight Sunday. Though he has yet to have his first full day on the job, Salazar has already made some big changes by getting rid of most of the top staff from Pamerleau's administration.
The two tussled in court over Pamerleau’s lame-duck staffing changes. Salazar obtained a temporary restraining order against her, saying the she was retaliating against people who helped his campaign as well as those serving on his transition team. He also alleged Pamerleau was demoting several personnel from her command staff to positions that didn’t exist.
A judge dissolved the order a day later.
Hours after Salazar was sworn in, it was his turn to make changes. A memo was sent out to BCSO captains and lieutenants with a "no access" order for Pamerleau, her chief of communication, her chief deputy and all seven deputy chiefs. The memo instructed BCSO personnel not to let any of the 10 into secure or non-public areas of the BCSO.
Salazar said they were given letters informing them they would not be retained in the new administration.
Chief Financial Officer Ottis Hutchinson Jr. and Chief Administration Officer Debra Nicholas were not included in the memo, and Salazar said they would remain at the Bexar County Sheriff's Office.
Prior to her departure, Pamerleau demoted two of the employees listed in the "no access" order, Tammy Burr and Henry Reyes, from deputy chiefs to captain and lieutenant, respectively. She said it was their request to do so.
However, Salazar said Burr and Reyes are going out with their former boss.
"In my opinion, they are not civil service-protected and so they were not retained, along with the rest of the command staff that came along," Salazar said.
Salazar said he has "two or three" of the nine vacant positions filled already and plans to announce some later this week. In the meantime, he said there's no lack of leadership at the BCSO.
"All of our captains and lieutenants are quite capable, and my transition team is comprised entirely of supervisory staff from within the sheriff's office," he said. "So tomorrow morning we hit the ground running and the taxpayers won't notice a thing."
He will be looking to fill more than the top spots at the sheriff's office. With recruitment as a top priority, Salazar said his administration will reach out to recent employees to see why they left.
"If it's something that they might consider coming back, we'll see about maybe improving some of the conditions and bringing them back to the sheriff's office to recoup some of that investment that the taxpayers may have lost when they left the sheriff's office," he said.
Salazar's first full day will be Tuesday and the new sheriff said he plans to work an overtime shift, too. It's a show of solidarity with detention officers who have been working mandatory overtime at the Bexar County Jail.