Harris County's new sheriff faces lawsuit

January 2, 2009 4:32:51 PM PST
Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia was sworn in on Thursday and already he's under fire. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Two former sheriff's department employees are suing Sheriff Garcia for an act that has been referred to as "a personal attack."

The photos of former Sheriff Tommy Thomas and eight former members of his department showed up on a posted notice around Harris County public buildings Friday, with a note saying the former employees are not allowed in any sheriff's department facility.

Sheriff Garcia was on the job swearing in reserve deputies on Friday when he commented on the memo, saying, "I did not have that ordered. Apparently, it's standard operating procedure around the sheriff's office to put out a memo of such, advising people who's authorized to have access."

Hours later on Friday, two of the former employees included in the memo were in civil court suing the sheriff. They both argued for their rights to transfer to their former ranks and claimed the memo was demeaning.

"It's retaliation, without a doubt. They're made to look like they're some type of a mugshot. It subjects them to possibly being arrested for going into a public building in Harris County. It's outrageous," said Michael Fleming, attorney for the former employees.

The two employees won round one at Friday's hearing. The sheriff's department and Sheriff Garcia have been temporarily enjoined from filling two captain positions to which the two employees could have been transferred. The injunction will stand until a hearing later this month.

As far as the notice is concerned, it can remain posted, but none of the nine former employees can be stopped, detained or harassed if they step foot on Harris County public property.

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