Former BCSO jail chief sues sheriff, county alleging he was fired over politics

Henry Reyes seeks back pay, loss of benefits, 'loss of health' damages

SAN ANTONIO – A former Bexar County Jail administrator has filed suit against the sheriff, claiming he was let go because he supported the then-sheriff. He claims that violated his First Amendment right to freedom of association, an allegation the current sheriff and county deny.

Henry Reyes was a deputy chief-assistant jail administrator under then-Sheriff Susan Pamerleau. His lawsuit said Reyes supported Pamerleau in the Nov. 2016 general election.

"Plaintiff Reyes did nothing as a supporter of incumbent Sheriff Pamerleau that could harm his prospective working relationship with the future Sheriff Of Bexar County. He was a quiet supporter, making a donation of $250 to Susan Pamerleau's re-election campaign but not engaging publicly in vocal campaigning or criticism of Defendant Salazar. Plaintiff Reyes' support of Susan Pamerleau in no way disrupted contemporaneous or future operations of the sheriff's office," the lawsuit said.

After she was defeated by Javier Salazar, Reyes' requested to be demoted to lieutenant, a position that has civil service protection -- meaning he could not be dismissed at will.

"The position of Assistant Jail Administrator is (Wages and Fair Labor Standards Act) exempt and exempt from civil service," the lawsuit said. Civil service exempt employees serve at the pleasure of, in this case, the sheriff.  CLICK HERE TO READ BEXAR COUNTY SHERIFF'S CIVIL SERVICE RULES

That move happened with just seven days left in Pamerleau's term, sending Salazar to a judge for a temporary restraining order, alleging the demotion was made to a position that did not exist. Reyes' lawsuit said there was a vacancy for a lieutenant position. Reyes held the position of lieutenant,at the First Shift Annex from Dec. 24 to Dec. 31, 2016.

At a hearing for the restraining order, "Salazar judicially admitted that he was motivated by Plaintiff Reyes' support for Susan Pamerleau to apply for injunctive relief that would prevent her from demoting Plaintiff Reyes to a protected civil service position and thus facilitate his ability to terminate Plaintiff Reyes' employment without observing civil service procedures," the lawsuit said.

When Salazar took office Jan. 1, 2017, Reyes was let go -- language both sides dispute. Reyes alleges he was terminated. Bexar County's response to the lawsuit said Reyes "was not retained."

"Defendants would show that they acted at all times in good faith and without malice, evil motive or intent or reckless or callous indifference to the rights of plaintiff," the county said. "Defendant denies that the alleged damages resulting to the plaintiff, if any, were the result of any negligent or willful act and/or omission of defendants, but, to the contrary, any damages sustained by the plaintiff, if any, were solely caused by the acts, omissions, conduct and/or negligence of the plaintiff or acts of a third party."

Reyes' suit seeks reinstatement to "an appropriate civil service position in which he will be protected from reprisal and to cease and desist from discharging him on the basis of political support or lack thereof." It also seeks monetary damages for "back pay, loss of earnings, loss of payment for accrued vacation and leave, loss of benefits, loss of standing and reputation in the community, expenses of job search and moving, mental anguish, loss of health and medical expenses."

Both sides have requested a jury trial, but no hearing date has been set.