Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Why is Adrian Garcia complaining about Hickman's housecleaning at the HCSO?

Thanks to Neil for asking the right question.  The irony is as rich as a River Oaks address.

Among Ron Hickman's initial moves as sheriff was filling each of his first eight command posts with white males, a choice critics said shows a lack of vision in a jurisdiction as diverse as Harris County.

These employees range from a major in charge of criminal investigations to an assistant chief who oversees the jail.

Hickman called it insulting to question whether race or gender were considerations in his early staffing assignments.

"I'm still researching the top-level personnel. Given that I haven't finished assembling it," he said, "I think it would be unfair for me to say anything."

However, Adrian Garcia, the county's first Latino sheriff, called it "unconscionable" that all those on Hickman's command staff to date are white and male. Garcia resigned to run for mayor of Houston.

Let's not pretend any of this is 'more qualified' crap.  There was nothing wrong with the qualifications of the people that Garcia had working in his command.  There's probably not anything wrong with the qualifications of the conservative white dudes Hickman is bringing in, either.  This is about politics; "it's not what you know, it's who you know".

"A lot of African-American deputies have approached me … asking me to say something about this. We are going back to the days of (Sheriff) Tommy Thomas," said J.M. "Smokie" Phillips Jr., president of the Afro-American Sheriff's Deputy League. "They are expressing concern that we are going backwards to the old days of racism, the good old boys' system, discriminatory practices and disparity in treatment."

Robert Goerlitz, president of the Harris County Deputies Organization, which endorsed Hickman's appointment, said, "I think the choices are being made more based on ability than based on what race or gender (the individuals) are. It's detrimental to an organization when you make your decisions based on race or gender."

The president of the Mexican American Sheriffs Organization, Marty Rocha, declined to weigh in until Hickman completes his assignments.

"We're going to have to give him the opportunity to set up his command," Rocha said. "We're going to wait until he finishes. … It's not a done deal, and he's still moving folks back and forth."

Yes, it's probably fair to judge once all the FNGs are in place.

In the roughly two weeks since Commissioners Court appointed him to serve the remainder of Garcia's term, Hickman has lined up two-thirds of his command staff. He kept two members of Garcia's top staff, but most of his command picks came from Precinct 4, where Hickman was constable, or, in the case of one new hire, out of retirement.

The sheriff has roughly 25 discretionary positions, and the top dozen are given to staff members who oversee vast regions of the sheriff's $440 million operations. This upper echelon is referred to among insiders as "command."

Two weeks into Hickman's tenure, the demographic change in these leadership roles demonstrates a remarkable contrast to the makeup of Garcia's command. Garcia said he intentionally included qualified people of color and women in the top ranks.


The command group in place when Hickman entered the picture included two black men, two white women, a Hispanic male, an Asian-American male and four white males.

The two white males who remain joined Garcia's command in 2013. They are Majs. Clinton F. Greenwood, a commander of internal affairs, and Steven L. Marino, who heads patrol operations. Hickman has brought in six white males, five of whom worked for him in the Precinct 4 constable's office.

Hickman terminated Maj. Penny Crianza, a white woman who directed crime data analysis, ran the information technology division and had worked 23 years for the sheriff's office. Hickman demoted Maj. Debra A. Schmidt, a white woman who had implemented sweeping new protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex inmates and employees. Schmidt has served 29 years for the department.

Hickman transferred one black male, Maj. Edwin A. Davis, to a civilian post with a lower salary, and he fired another black male, Chief Deputy Marlin R. Suell, who led the investigation into abuses at the jail.
Hickman also dismissed Maj. Michael F. Wong, the first Asian-American male in command, who directed the sheriff's Homeland Security operation, which included the port, helicopter operations, marine units at the Houston Ship Channel and intelligence. And he fired Maj. Edison Toquica, a Hispanic male managing criminal investigations who spent 23 years with the sheriff's office.

Yes, you have to think that a white male Republican working in the constable's office is more qualified than some of these minorities and women with decades of service in the sheriff's department.  Because of course.

Adrian Garcia looks like a putz with his "unconscionable" remark.  And if he fails to get elected mayor, a lot of extra recrimination gets laid at his feet, as the new sheriff finishes up the four-year term Garcia was elected to only last November.  (That's right; the position of Harris County Sheriff won't be on the ballot again until 2018 2016, as Charles points out in the comments.  I confused it with County Judge, which is in 2018.)

Update: This correction changes my assessment.  Garcia, upon losing the mayor's race, could turn around and run for his old office again, assuming he had not lost too much credibility with the voters after giving it up and then failing in his bid to manage City Hall.  But I'd rather see CM Ed Gonzalez make a run.

Charles thinks the new guy deserves to tap his own people, but the only place I've ever seen where everybody got broomed out of the top management jobs before the new boss draws his first paycheck is the local auto dealership.  Reputable corporate managers may gradually -- over months or even a year or two -- replace key people with their friends; not in the first two weeks.  There's this little thing called institutional memory...

Campos actually got it right, although without being bold enough to be specific, as usual.

If I needed another reason not to vote for Garcia for mayor -- and I didn't -- then what transpires over the next three one-and-a-half years in the SO ought to be obvious enough to everyone to make up their own minds about the former sheriff.  As for Hickman: too early to pronounce him a failure, but he's headed fast down that road.

Update via Carl Whitmarsh, quoting Houston social justice activist Ray Hill:

"The appointment (by county commissioners of Sheriff Hickman) is until the 2016 election but his incumbency and that we are not getting an honest vote count in November elections in Harris County give him a wide lead... To be successful, a Democrat must have about an 8% lead to overcome the "adjustment" imposed by those who count the votes..."

"When Adrian Garcia resigned from being sheriff to make a kamikaze run for mayor, he abandoned the position to be filled by a classic good ol' boy who has now passed the high-paying jobs to his cronies, almost all white former close friends with the likes of Herman Short and Buster Kern..."

"Now Adrian wants to be rewarded for abandoning us to the mercy of the merciless. Think about that carefully"... and just for those who are wondering, there are very strong rumors that Democrats Constable Alan Rosen and City Councilmember C.o. Bradford are looking at making the race in 2016 as Democrats.


Charles Kuffner said...

Garcia won re-election in 2012:

http://www.harrisvotes.com/HISTORY/20121106/cumulative/cumulative.htm, see page 26

Sheriff is on the ballot in 2016, as are DA, County Attorney, and Tax Assessor.

2018 will be County Judge, County Clerk, District Clerk, and Treasurer.

PDiddie said...

That's a joyful error! I'll update the post, with some additional thoughts.