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Lea Shawnette Gutierrez, a former employee of Winkler County Community Supervision and Corrections Department, has filed a civil rights complaint following her termination, alleging retaliation after reporting supervisor misconduct and timesheet discrepancies.
Winkler County: Allegations of Illegal Conduct
Gutierrez states in her complaint, from September 21, 2020, through April 21, 2023, Gutierrez was employed by Winkler County as an adult probation officer. As an employee in the Community Supervision and Corrections Department, Gutierrez worked under the supervision of Elvia Rodriguez, who held the title of Director of the Department. Rodriguez, in turn, was supervised by Winkler County Judge Charles Wolf.
During the week of March 20-23, 2023, Gutierrez and Rodriguez attended training in Horseshoe Bay, Texas. While Rodriguez took a government vehicle belonging to Winkler County, Gutierrez drove separately in her personal vehicle as suggested by Rodriguez. Gutierrez traveled from her home on Sunday, March 19, 2023, and returned home on Thursday, March 23, 2023.
It was only on April 18, 2023, during a meeting with County Auditor Jeanna Willhelm, that Gutierrez learned she was entitled to claim reimbursement for mileage on her personal vehicle. Auditor Willhelm also noticed discrepancies in Gutierrez’s timesheet, which falsely indicated that Gutierrez worked Monday through Friday when she had an off-day on Friday. Gutierrez explained that Rodriguez had provided these instructions, unaware of their accuracy. Auditor Willhelm advised Gutierrez to correct the timesheet and the separate food overage.
During the meeting, Gutierrez expressed concerns about claiming mileage reimbursement and potentially upsetting Rodriguez or impacting the Department’s budget. Gutierrez also disclosed to Auditor Willhelm that Rodriguez prohibited employees from interacting with other departments without her permission, which violated Winkler County’s open door policy.
Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, Auditor Willhelm suggested bringing these matters to the attention of Rodriguez’s supervisors, Judge Wolf, and the 109th District Judge. However, Gutierrez declined, fearing retaliation and the negative repercussions it could have on her employment. Auditor Willhelm assured Gutierrez that firing her under such circumstances would be considered illegal retaliation.
Gutierrez explained the difficulties she had faced in the Department since November 2022 when she and Rodriguez had a workplace dispute over the presence of a minor, who was an employee’s child, in the office. Rodriguez dismissed Gutierrez’s concerns and asked her to “mind [her] own business.” Ultimately, a sex offender under Gutierrez’s supervision raised concerns about the minor’s presence, leading to a complaint being filed with Judge Wolf.
At the end of the meeting on April 18, 2023, Auditor Willhelm informed Gutierrez that she would bring all the information to the attention of Judge Wolf and the 109th District Judge, further pursuing a resolution to these issues.
Note: The information provided is based on the on the allegations made in Lea Shawnette Gutierrez’s civil rights complaint, and the validity of these claims will need to be established through further legal proceedings.
Winkler County: Claims of Retaliation
The series of events that unfolded in Winkler County involving Lea Shawnette Gutierrez and Elvia Rodriguez, and the subsequent termination of Gutierrez, have raised serious concerns about potential illegal conduct and retaliation within the Community Supervision and Corrections Department. The details provided indicate a challenging work environment and potential violations of county policies.
On April 19, 2023, Gutierrez disclosed her meeting with County Auditor Jeanna Willhelm to Rodriguez, which resulted in a heated exchange. Rodriguez expressed anger over Gutierrez speaking with the auditor without her permission, and she voiced concerns about the impact of claiming mileage reimbursement on the department’s budget.
The tension escalated on April 20, 2023, when Rodriguez confronted Gutierrez in the office. During the confrontation, Rodriguez expressed frustration over approving Gutierrez’s mileage reimbursement and claimed that it hindered the department’s ability to purchase a new tire for a vehicle. Rodriguez also instructed Gutierrez to modify her timesheet, incorrectly reflecting a Sunday through Thursday work week and adding falsely stated “flex” time.
Feeling uncomfortable with the inaccurate timesheet, Gutierrez reached out to the auditor on April 21, 2023, but was unable to connect. Upon Gutierrez’s return to the office, Rodriguez, accompanied by Winkler County Sheriff Darin Mitchell, terminated Gutierrez without explanation, stating that her services were no longer needed.
Following her termination, Gutierrez corrected the timesheet and submitted a grievance to the County Treasurer, the 109th District Judge, the County Attorney, and Judge Wolf on May 15, 2023. The termination paperwork provided by Winkler County contained vague reasons and did not indicate any violation of company policy.
These incidents raise significant concerns about the treatment and potential retaliation faced by Gutierrez within the department. Given the gravity of the situation, it is crucial for the relevant authorities to thoroughly investigate these allegations, ensuring fairness, transparency, and accountability prevail.
Note: The information provided is based on the allegations made in Lea Shawnette Gutierrez’s civil rights complaint, and the validity of these claims will need to be established through further legal proceedings.
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Categories: The Lone Star Review - State