Former Goliad sheriff sues current sheriff over school resource officer job

  • What's next

  • An initial pretrial scheduling conference is set for Oct. 3 in the federal lawsuit filed by former Goliad Sheriff Robert De La Garza.

Former Goliad Sheriff Robert De La Garza is suing the current sheriff in federal court, claiming politics kept him from being named the school resource officer.

De La Garza filed the lawsuit against now Sheriff Kirby Brumby in July.

The plaintiff, a Democrat, claims Brumby, a Republican, chose not to deputize him into a non-policymaking position as a school resource officer for the Goliad school district for political reasons that violated his First Amendment rights, according to the lawsuit.

De La Garza, elected sheriff in 2000 and re-elected in 2004, was defeated by Brumby in 2008.

The plaintiff declined to comment, and his Victoria-based attorney Robert E. McKnight Jr. did not return messages seeking comment.

In 2007, during De La Garza's second term as sheriff, Goliad County and the school district agreed to create the position of school resource officer to provide security to the schools.

Although the agreement called for the county to hire the officers, they were to be supervised by the sheriff.

Early in Brumby's administration, the school resource job remained vacant, even though Brumby said he would fill it.

The job was offered to one candidate who turned it down.

On July 9, 2009, De La Garza expressed his interest of applying for the open position to then-school Superintendent Sam Atwood.

Despite subsequent discussions by the board and commissioners' court, no action was taken to hire a school resource officer. Then on Sept. 30, 2009, the school board voted to endorse two candidates, including De La Garza.

The Victoria Advocate submitted a public records request to the school district for copies of all letter correspondence between Atwood and Brumby regarding the school resource position.

Based on copies of those letters, the majority of which were sent in October 2009, Brumby informed Atwood that both candidates would be subject to extensive background checks, as well as an interview with Brumby's hiring board.

The letter also showed Brumby offered to help with the search.

On Oct. 16, 2009, Brumby announced in a letter to Atwood and the school board that he had decided not to commission De La Garza as a school resource officer.

Brumby offered to have some of his deputies patrol the campuses until a resource officer could be hired.

Brumby declined to comment about the lawsuit or his reasons for not deputizing De La Garza as a school resource officer, other than to say it partly had to do with comments De La Garza made in a deposition regarding Frederick S. Dworaczk, a federal prisoner in his custody.

The deposition was part of a 2004 lawsuit filed by Celia Sanchez, who claimed she was raped by a guard at the Goliad County jail when she was an inmate, against Goliad County and De La Garza, who was then sheriff.

Dworaczk was serving a federal sentence on the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

According to the deposition, De La Garza took Dworaczk, who was working as a jail trusty, out of the jail to attend his son's birthday party at the city park.

"He had a gift for my son," De La Garza said in the deposition, as he denied knowing how Dworaczk got the Spiderman gift he later presented to De La Garza's son. "He was someone that respected me and my family and cared enough about my child, you know, to give him a gift."

He was also questioned about a pattern of sex between inmates and jailers.

"Anything is a possibility," De La Garza said in the deposition.

The plaintiff also admitted to being aware that his secretary had been communicating with Dworaczk via letters and that he had allowed Dworaczk to go on late evening furloughs with his then jail administrator, to supposedly visit his mother more than 60 miles away from the jail.

A check with the U.S. Marshals Service revealed Dworaczk's actions may have gone against agency policy.

Generally speaking, federal prisoners housed in local jails are not allowed to work as trusties, go on furloughs, or leave the jail in plain clothes, said Deputy U.S. Marshal Alfredo Perez, of the U.S. Marshal Service's Southern District of Texas.

Additionally, De La Garza was listed as a reference for the guard accused of raping Sanchez.

An undisclosed settlement was later reached in the Sanchez case.

In his lawsuit against Brumby, De La Garza, who was elected to the Goliad school board in May, is seeking to recover economic damages, which include the loss of pay he would have earned had he been commissioned as an officer as well as damages for humiliation, mental anguish, punitive damages and court costs.

He has also requested the court to instate him as a school resource officer.