Former Harris Co. Universal Services exec director intends to sue Judge Hidalgo after firing

Retired Gen. Rick Noriega was dismissed after refusing to complete a sexual harassment course, ABC13 learned.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023
Harris Co. fires IT director over sexual harassment training refusal
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Eyewitness News has learned Retired Gen. Rick Noriega has been dismissed as Harris County director of information technology after he reportedly refused to take a mandatory sexual harassment training course.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County's executive director of Universal Services is out of a job.

Multiple sources told ABC13 on Tuesday that retired Gen. Rick Noriega was dismissed over allegations of sexual harassment.

This all stems from a sexual harassment claim filed against him this past December. The county investigated and ordered Noriega to complete mandatory sexual harassment training.

It's important to note that Noriega was dismissed because he didn't complete mandatory training, not because of the original complaint against him. In the termination letter obtained by ABC13, the acting county administrator, Diana Ramirez, said in part:

"After careful consideration of recent events, I have determined that a change in leadership is required due to your failure or refusal to complete important mandated sexual harassment training."

On Tuesday evening, Noriega issued a blistering statement in response:

"'I have never been more offended or insulted in my 40 years of public service. I intend to sue Judge Lina Hidalgo and her Acting County Administrator for their retaliatory and defamatory conduct. Harris County deserves better leaders.' MG Richard J. Noriega (Ret)"

Earlier Tuesday during commissioners court's public session, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo didn't name Noriega specifically, but addressed his firing.

"I want every county employee - and their daughters and their grand daughters and their sisters - to know that sexual harassment and sexism will not be tolerated in Harris County," Hidalgo said. "We've come a long way from the 'old boys' club' way of doing things, but I'll tell you we're not done. In this courtroom, I've been groped...The kind of behavior this employee faced is behavior that I, for one, have been a victim of as county judge."

Noriega's salary was just over $286,000 a year, which puts him in the top 20 highest-paid county employees, according to county data.

Noriega has a long history in the public eye in Harris County. He was a state representative from 1999 to 2009 and gained wide attention when he was deployed overseas during his tenure. In addition, then-Mayor Bill White asked Noriega to oversee logistics when thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees stayed at the Astrodome and NRG Park.

Noriega was also the Democratic nominee for one of Texas' U.S. senate seats in 2008, losing to Sen. John Cornyn.

A copy of the termination letter can be seen below (Tap here if viewing on mobile):