DeWitt: Questioning verges on retaliation
by Jason Collins
Oct 25, 2013 | 163 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From left, Commissioner Dennis DeWitt, Judge David Silva and Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez discuss the non-hiring of a veterans affairs officer.
From left, Commissioner Dennis DeWitt, Judge David Silva and Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez discuss the non-hiring of a veterans affairs officer.

The events that transpired during a recent commissioners court meeting has Roy Galvan defending not only his selection for the veterans affairs officer, but his process of selection.

“The legality of the committee format was not questioned until after the interviews were completed,” Galvan told the county leaders during their meeting Friday morning. “Unfortunately, the applicant that Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez and the local veterans group wanted was not selected.”

Commissioner Dennis DeWitt, who was on the committee, voiced concern about this meeting and the Monday, Oct. 14, meeting when accusations of favoritism were made.

“In my opinion we are in the process of creating a hostile work environment for the community affairs director. There is a hint of retaliation in this process,” DeWitt said.

Rodriguez responded, “There is no retaliation involved. We were just not familiar with what happened and I wanted to bring up some facts that were not done correctly.

“That was my intent. No more. No less.”

Galvan, who himself previously served as veterans affairs officer before his promotion to community affairs director, reminded the court that two of its members were on the hiring committee — including the commissioner who had called for the questioning.

This discussion would usually have been held behind closed doors; however, after the events of Monday’s court meeting, Galvan made the request that it be held in front of the public.

Judge David Silva read, “I, Rogerio Roy Galvan, have requested an open meeting to defend my decision of hiring Ralph Anthony Ferguson as the new veterans service officer.”

Rodriguez, who made the request to discuss the community affairs position, said that the feelings of the veterans organizations were not considered during the hiring process.

Galvan disputed this claim.

“The letter of recommendation by local veterans organizations was considered, until I asked for a reference of the applicant from one of the persons whose name was on the recommendation.

“The person was not aware of the letter, nor did they know who was being recommended, in fact, they did not know the person.”

Rodriguez said, “Armando Musquez had talked to the four leaders of the veterans service organizations. They had all agreed to support that candidate.

“They knew they had supported this candidate. They did not know about the letter.”

Galvan said that he felt the county was being pressured to hire the person the veterans organizations wanted — not the best person for the job.

“Honorable Judge and Commissioners, I feel that the local veterans organizations are not just recommending their best candidate, they are demanding who to hire.”

Rodriguez said, “They were not demanding, they were recommending a particular person going by what that particular gentleman has accomplished and done for the veterans already on a volunteer basis.”

Also called into question, was that the decision of who to hire was made by Galvan and not the court — as Rodriguez said should have been done.

“After we finished interviewing all of the applicants, I stated we were merely the interview committee but the final decision was going to be made by the commissioners court.

“I mentioned that to all of the applicants. Not once was I told that was not the way it is going to be.

“Why did you not tell the applicants that is not the way it is going to be done?”

When questioned, both Galvan and DeWitt said, “I don’t remember that, sir.”

Rodriguez responded, “Well, I said it.

“I wish we would have kept records of it. All five of the applicants would probably tell you the same thing.”

Rodriguez also questioned whether Galvan had initially asked Ferguson to apply for the position.

“Did you approach Mr. Ferguson to apply for this position?”

Galvan said that he told Ferguson of the position when he came in to fill out paperwork, as he would any veteran who asked about it.

“You are taking my words out of context,” Galvan said.

Rodriguez, who said that Ferguson told him a different version of the event, responded, “He told me. I was there. He said it in front of me. I am not taking anything out of context.”

Rodriguez said he felt that the entire hiring process was tainted.

“Two of the applicants, one in particular, has been involved with the veterans organizations,” Rodriguez said.

“He is very familiar with all of the forms and processes.

“(Ferguson) has never appeared at any of the veterans meeting.

“He has never lifted a finger to assist any of the local veterans as have two of the gentlemen.

“If this interview was being conducted by an independent board, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the candidate that was selected would not have been in the top two.”

Rodriguez said that even as a committee they did not discuss the candidates.

“We did not discuss the pluses and minuses of each candidate,” he said.

“That gave me the impression that it was already known who you were going to hire.

“I told you I felt this was already a done deal and I was pretty upset.

“I came back and I was still upset.

“I came back and told you and Mr. DeWitt that the wrong candidate was selected.”

Something not known at the time of the hiring was that it is the court’s responsibility to hire the veterans officer and not the responsibility of the overseeing department head. That is spelled out in state statute.

Silva, in response to this news, said, “We might have erred but it wasn’t intentional.

“By not even knowing that statute was there, we did the right thing.

“It is not right for Mr. Ferguson to be hanging out there.

“Mr. Ferguson is not hired at this point.

“We have gone through the whole process. A selection was made.

“A selection was presented and a job offer was presented and accepted and Mr. Ferguson has worked for a week.”

Ultimately, during that past Monday’s court meeting, commissioners could not get a majority vote to formally hire Ferguson so his employment was canceled.

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at
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