David Morgan, risk management coordinator for Bee County, said, “The Texas Association of Counties recommends we have a complaint process. We have a disciplinary process already. We have a grievance proceeding but Bee County does not have a policy regarding how to receive or assign and how to investigate complaints against our employees.
“The purpose is to ensure that all complaints brought against Bee County employees are received, investigated and brought to a successful conclusion.”
This omission in policy came to light earlier this year when a complaint was filed against the director of the community affairs department.
Two Bee County residents said that Dennis DeWitt, who has since retired, used racially disparaging remarks when dealing with them.
Commissioners appointed Morgan to investigate the allegations, and by vote, sustained the allegations and placed information as such in his personnel file — despite him having since retired.
A new chapter in the county handbook details exactly how matters like this will be handled.
Once a formal complaint is filed against a department head, the matter will go to the court.
“The Judge (David Silva) may decide who is going to investigate this,” Morgan said. “It may be this court. It may be David Morgan, which was done in the past.”
Those making the complaints will be asked to sign written statements of what they say occurred.
“The complainant should be told that refusal to provide a written statement could affect the outcome of the investigation,” Morgan said. “Whether written or not, all complaints will be investigated.
“If somebody has a complaint, we are still going to investigate. We may look at how we classify that complaint later but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to investigate it.”
The decision to have the complaints signed, was for the protection of the employees, who also have to provide signed statements of their versions of the events.
“We are going to require our employees to be truthful and sign it and swear to it, we have to afford them some protection as well. If the complainant is not willing to do the same we have to consider that as well,” Morgan said.
Commissioner Susan Stasny questioned why certain specifics weren’t included in the policy.
“We have something in here that it will be taking into consideration if the complainant doesn’t want to sign a formal complaint. It says the employee will cooperate and will make a signed sworn statement. There is nothing that says that in the process of cooperating that if the employee fails to recall a number of times, that this is also taken into consideration.”
Morgan told Stasny that the contents of all statements received would be taken into consideration by the investigator.
“The veracity of any statement whether employee or complainant, always has to be dealt with. That is just a given.”
There is an exception included in the policy. The court won’t be able to investigate elected officials.
“Obviously this body can’t investigate complaints against elected officials,” Morgan said.
In all cases, the employee will be notified of the complaint, along with the name of the person making the complaint.
“Our employees have the right to be told there has been a complaint filed against (them),” Morgan said. “There are some protections built into the policy.”
Once a complaint is filed, the employee is not allowed to have contact with the person making the complaint and not permitted to discuss the allegations made against them.
“An exception to this notification process is illegal activity,” Morgan said.
“Obviously if the complaint is of a crime or continuing unlawful act, we are not going to notify the employee that we are investigating them criminally.”
Morgan stressed that this policy was for employees and is not intended to limit the rights of the public.
“This is Bee County policy,” Morgan said. “We are not setting policy to the public.
“We are giving rights to our employees.
“We can’t legislate what the community can do. We don’t do public policy.”
The public, if they don’t agree with the court’s decision, always has the right to voice their opinion.
“They always have that option of coming to the commissioners court,” Morgan said.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.