SA River Authority supervisor resigns after 'permanently disfiguring' employee, records show

Employee to undergo facial surgery

By Dillon Collier - Investigative Reporter, Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist

SAN ANTONIO - A supervisor with the San Antonio River Authority has resigned and two others were terminated after a co-worker was struck in the face by a large PVC pipe inside a SARA maintenance building in east Bexar County last month.

Alfred Rakowitz, a maintenance foreman who worked for the River Authority since 2009, resigned Nov. 12, six days after he threw the pipe from a second-story loft, striking a co-worker below in the face, according to Rakowitz's personnel file.

The victim, who KSAT 12 is not naming, will be forced to undergo surgery to put his nasal septum back in place, SARA officials confirmed last week.

Rakowtiz told SARA officials that even though he was "very angry" with the victim prior to throwing the pipe, he did not mean to injure him.

A fellow co-worker who witnessed the assault, however, said Rakowitz threw the approximately 3- to 4-foot-long pipe at a speed that seemed "unreasonable and dangerous."

The pipe, which according to evidence photos is nearly the width of a pickup truck bed, is used as a vacuum extension inside the facility off of Farm to Market 1516, according to SARA records of the incident.

Surveillance footage provided to the KSAT 12 Defenders following an open records request did not capture the incident but does show its immediate aftermath.

The victim is seen clutching his nose before walking off screen.

Two other maintenance supervisors, utilities manager John Gomez and assistant maintenance supervisor Clarence Kiolbassa, were terminated Nov. 19.

SARA officials have so far declined to say why the two employees were terminated, saying only that the firings did not stem from the pipe incident.

Rakowitz's personnel file, however, contains concerning information about Gomez and Kiolbassa.

The worker who witnessed Rakowitz throw the pipe also said that he witnessed Kiolbassa hit the victim on the head during an earlier incident, according to SARA records.

Rakowitz is also accused of hitting the same victim during another previous incident. The workplace assault apparently never got reported to SARA's upper management, after a then-SARA employee told the victim not to talk to anyone about what happened to him, according to SARA records.

SARA officials determined that Gomez was informed of the previous workplace violence incident but failed to notify his chain of command.

"Through this investigation, we found that some people within the utilities (department) knew about some incidents, but I was unaware about them," said SARA general manager Suzanne Scott. "This particular incident brought out something about Alfred that I was unaware of."

Scott defended her initial discussions on how Rakowitz should be disciplined, including whether to suspend him without pay and order him to go through an anger management program.

"He has exceptional performance evaluations. When it was brought to me, I was unaware of any of the other, the other incident," Scott said.

Records show SARA officials ultimately decided to fire Rakowitz, but he submitted a letter of resignation shortly before the termination was to take place.

Rakowitz did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

A Bexar County Sheriff's Office incident report indicates that the victim suffered permanent disfigurement and serious bodily injury.

The case is still under investigation and will be forwarded to the district attorney's office as an aggravated assault, a BCSO spokeswoman confirmed last week.

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