After listening to Chris Baker, radio talk show host on KSEV, on the way home, and reading Davie Jennings’ article claiming a victory for Louis Guthrie in his recent court case contesting the circumstances under which he was fired from the Sheriff’s office, I do feel compelled to set the record straight, because, as Mr. Jennings says “Truth Matters”.
Please allow me to remind you why Mr. Guthrie was fired in the first place. The ABC video, linked here, http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=6800226 gives a good synopsis of the alleged official oppression charge of which Mr. Guthrie is accused, for shutting down a car wash business because he suspected that $17.00 had been stolen from his wife’s car.
The final court order has no reference to a victory for Louis Guthrie, nor does it say anything about being vindicated, getting his old job back, getting back pay, or any of the many other truth-stretching claims coming from Guthrie supporters.
To quote David Jennings, from Big Jolly Politics, in article dated May 6, 2012 http://www.bigjollypolitics.com/wp/2012/05/06/harris-county-sheriff-candidate-louis-guthrie-wins-appeal/:
Following a bench trial in District Court, Louis Guthrie was vindicated, and the Sheriff’s Civil Service Commission’s decision to uphold his firing was set aside and the case remanded for proceedings consistent with the Court’s Order. What does that mean? It means that after the Court found the Civil Service Commission, and vis-à-vis the Sheriff, had violated the Texas Government Code, the decision in violation of State Law was set aside. Louis should get his job back along with back pay and benefits.
Unfortunately, there is not much truth in the above statement, from Big Jolly Politics.
The actual court order is located here.
On April 16, 2012 a hearing was held in the 295th Civil District Court, Judge Caroline Baker presiding. The hearing was an appeal of the firing of Louis T. Guthrie from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office by Sheriff Adrian Garcia and upheld by the Harris County Civil Service Commission.
After hearing oral arguments from both sides, Mr. Guthrie and Harris County, Judge Baker made a ruling that the Civil Service Commission made an error in law by not addressing the issue of Mr. Guthrie not being provided a copy of the complaint. She therefore remanded the case back to Civil Service for further proceedings.
While this is a great victory for all employees of the Sheriff’s Office as this violation has been the norm in Internal Affairs investigations the battle is not over. There was nothing stated in the ruling absolving Mr. Guthrie of any of the actions for which he was investigated and terminated.
To quote the actual Order: “One of Guthrie’s grounds of error is that the disciplinary action taken against him was not in compliance with section 614.023 of the Texas Government Code and that this noncompliance requires the he be reinstated. Guthrie is correct in arguing that Chapter 614 of the Texas Government Code controls in cases such as this; however, the Court does not agree that such error requires it to order his reinstatement.”
It is apparent that the Court could find no error in his actual termination except for the technicality of not receiving a copy of the complaint which is a procedural error not necessarily an error in upholding the termination.
It is my understanding that Harris County is appealing this decision and knowing how the courts move a hearing on this appeal will in all likelihood be at some future date well past the primary and more than likely after the general election.
Should Harris County decide not to appeal the ruling and rehear the case in Civil Service, the Commission could still rule to uphold the termination. It would seem that to meet the requirements that Judge Baker remanded the case for all they would have to do is address the issue with the County Attorney to ensure that the Sheriff’s Office will in the future provide a copy of the complaint to employees involved in the future and provide Mr. Guthrie with a copy of his own at that time. This would meet the requirements set out in the Government Code and nullify the error in law.
To put all this in simpler terms, Mr. Guthrie’s case is far from over. He has not been absolved of any wrong doing in his actions for which he was terminated. While there is evidence and documentation that he did not violate the law it is entirely feasible that he did violate Harris County Sheriff’s Office’s departmental policy which could garner him disciplinary action from anything from documented counseling, letter of reprimand and/or suspension, and even termination. Mr. Guthrie still has an uphill battle with an unsure outcome. Remember you can win a battle and still lose the war.
Ref. 295th Harris County Civil District Court case# 2010-35811
While I admire the enthusiasm of Mr. Guthrie’s supporters, I would ask them to restrain their comments to avoid being stretched to the point of prevarication. This, unfortunately, is a common trait of some of Mr. Guthrie’s supporters. A sure sign of desperation, and a losing campaign, when one has to lie in order to bolster their candidate’s credentials.
The actual court order is located here