Lawsuit between Goliad sheriffs settled out of court

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Sept. 26, 2013 at 4:26 a.m.
Updated Sept. 27, 2013 at 4:27 a.m.

A Goliad County drama that was set to play out for a jury in federal court in October has ended.

Sheriff Kirby Brumby and former Sheriff Robert De La Garza settled an employment discrimination case out of court last week.

De La Garza sued Brumby in 2011. He claimed Brumby kept him from being a school resource officer not because of his abilities but because the two had an adversarial relationship while vying for votes.

The county awarded De La Garza $22,500. Brumby said that cost was defrayed and should not affect taxpayers because the county paid its insurance company a $5,000 deductible.

In the agreement, neither party accepts blame.

"He didn't win. The county didn't win. It is just over," Brumby said.

Brumby still maintains his hiring decision was correct, pointing to De La Garza's history of what he described as unethical behavior.

"He took convicted felons to his son's birthday. He allowed jail administrators to take convicted felons on overnight trips. Those are not the kind of people I would want to have represent the sheriff's office," he said.

While the resolution was a relief, Brumby was confident he would have won over a jury.

"His (De La Garza's) first application was at the school district and then applied to the county. The very next day, he hired an attorney who said that if I didn't hire him, they were going to file a suit against me," Brumby said. "That's pretty fast."

De La Garza, however, remembers things differently.

De La Garza did not hire an attorney a day after submitting his application, and he said the fact the Goliad ISD's Board of Trustees unanimously selected him twice for the school resource officer position spoke volumes about his character.

"I am proud of the eight years I served as sheriff. I think we did good. I lost by 200 to 300 votes. Does that make someone a bad sheriff or a good sheriff? ... It's not like it was a landslide," he said. "He (Brumby) can say what he wants."

De La Garza decided to settle because the case was dragging and affecting entities, such as the school district, that he said "didn't have a dog in the fight."

Superintendent Emilio Vargas said the district has spent more than $25,000 on school resource officer issues so far.

To work on the current disputed school resource officer contract with the county, the district hired attorneys for $9,000, and to represent employees who had depositions in the case, it spent a little more than $15,000, he said.

"We do have insurance; however, for our insurance to kick in, we must be named as a party in the suit," Vargas said.

The district tapped into its reserve fund, so the cost shouldn't take away from any educational programs, he said.

De La Garza has served on the district's board of trustees for two years.

"I don't take full responsibility for that (money being spent)," he said. "It was their choice to represent people that were deposed by attorneys."

De La Garza said he believes the lawsuit did what was intended - raise awareness about Brumby's behavior.

"We're seeing it right now with Paul San Miguel," De La Garza said. "It's just like deja vu, like we're going to live this all over again. ... The bottom line is all we're trying to do is protect our children, our students, our staff. They overlook that."

Commissioners recently terminated San Miguel's school resource officer contract. He also ran against Brumby for sheriff, according to Advocate archives.

The settlement agreement was not entered into the court record. A copy of the agreement was not available Thursday.

Attorney Robert E. McKnight Jr. represented De La Garza. Kevin Dudley Cullen represented Brumby in his official capacity with the county.



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