Victoria chief deputy put on administrative leave, search begins for new second-in-command

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Nov. 13, 2013 at 5:13 a.m.

After two months with a chief deputy in place, the Victoria County Sheriff's Office is beginning the search again for a new second-in-command.

Chief Deputy Jeff Wendling was placed on administrative leave through the end of the year, Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor said Wednesday, citing "differences in philosophy" as the reason.

Differences, he said, that could not be reconciled.

While he said that does not mean Wendling had "inabilities to operate," O'Connor said that after nine years of "reconstructing and recorrecting" the office, "to continue to be progressive, there are certain aspects we should concentrate on, and we had differences in that."

Wendling will continue receiving pay and benefits through Dec. 31, O'Connor said. No other stipulations were made. Wendling's annual salary is $72,260, according to the 2014 budget.

"I do think the chief has a lot to offer," O'Connor said. "As I recommended to him, he would be in a better position, because of his ability and approach, to be the No. 1 person."

During a heated Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday, Wendling and O'Connor presented their case for $317,000 in capital improvement projects.

O'Connor said his decision had nothing to do with the meeting.

"I guess that's why I'm the sheriff," O'Connor said. "I'm responsible for those difficult decisions and tasks. If I don't do it for the sake of the sheriff's office and the people of Texas, or Victoria, then I shouldn't be in this place. ... We press on."

Wendling, who most recently served as Socorro Police Department chief, was sworn into office Sept. 16.

He started his career as a U.S. deputy marshal. Throughout 44 years of service, he has been recognized for excellence while working with the Drug Enforcement Administration and for his development of Kerrville Police Department's communications system by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

O'Connor said he was disappointed.

"You have to re-evaluate and regroup, quite frankly," he said. "As far as the sheriff's office is concerned, the office won't miss a beat."

He said the office should never be reliant on any one individual, including himself, and that leaders ensure the team is cohesive.

"I felt that over the period of time, unfortunately a short period of time ... you have to have a cohesive, collaborative effort between the sheriff and his first command," O'Connor said. "He's the No. 2 person."

Before Wendling was sworn in, the position had been vacant for 10 months after Chief Deputy Terry Simons died of a heart attack Nov. 7, 2012.

Attempts to reach Wendling for comment were unsuccessful.



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