In an appearance at the Downtown Houston Pachyderm Club’s weekly meeting, newly appointed Sheriff Ron Hickman made it clear that he doesn’t think that former Sheriff Adrian Garcia ran the department well. Here are a few of his complaints:
- No academy since 2009
- No employee discipline
- No employee training
- Bloated Internal Affairs
- $53,000 yearly contract with the Houston Chronicle to provide 800 newspapers daily
- Garcia used the commissary fund as his personal slush fund
- Misuse of Purchase Order system allowing requests for $40,000 (under the $50,000 limit), then adding another $40,000 later. He called it “under the radar” spending.
I’m sure there were more but those are the ones I wrote down.
He also mentioned that the Houston Chronicle had given him “flak” regarding his choices for his leadership team being all white males. He said at the time that several positions were still open and he has since appointed two African Americans to high ranking positions but that the Chronicle didn’t bother to write about that.
Hickman stressed that he answers all emails personally and will meet with anyone or any group. He has already met with the NAACP and other civic groups, even those with whom he disagrees. He told us that although he listened to their concerns, he will not be forming a civilian review board because there are already measures in place that do the same thing. He also turned down a request to participate in the Gay Pride Parade but said he wouldn’t care if other members of the department participated on their own time.
He wants to focus on reducing recidivism and developing leaders. He has already begun to engage with his employees, stating that he went into a building to be finger printed for the job application and went around to every employee on every floor and doubted that Garcia had ever even been in the building. He also said that he was going to hold an academy but didn’t provide a timetable for that.
When it came time for questions from the club, he answered several questions with “I don’t know about that”, including the new grand jury bill that should reduce the “pick-a-pal” system and a question about why the department is still arresting low level drug offenders instead of ticketing them. On a question about Garcia’s policy of ignoring ICE holds, he discussed the need to get people out of the jail as quickly as possible so that the jail doesn’t exceed its 9,000 person capacity. Regarding human trafficking, he plans to bring the program from his old Precinct 4 Constable office into the Sheriff’s office.
I asked Hickman about his support for Donald Fincher, who killed one of his Precinct 4 deputies in a DWI case. Hey, not all questions should be softballs. He said that it was only his opinion and that he knew Fincher’s mother and that the guy didn’t get any special consideration because of his letter. I sincerely doubt that but that is his opinion. But he did say something that is clearly not true and I want to make sure the people in the room that heard it know it isn’t true. He stated that he consulted with the victim’s family before writing the letter. Here is what the victim’s wife says:
My name is Paula Claborn Henderson, and I am the widow of Deputy Constable Frank Scott Claborn (EOW 2-19-04). I found out in May 2008 that rather than support my late husband, Constable Hickman’s own deputy, he chose to write a letter to the parole board on his killer’s behalf. Sickening, isn’t it? Not only that, but he is also the campaign treasurer of Patricia Fincher Harless. Scott’s killer was Donald Lee Fincher, Jr. Notice any similarities? When interviewed by Channel 2 News in Houston, the assistant DA said that Constable Hickman supported Scott’s killer getting probation!!!!!! I need help desperately. I made a promise to my son that I would seek justice for his father, and that includes everyone who worked behind the scenes to sabotage the justice system. If you know anything at all about this situation, please feel free to post it on this blog. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, then please contact the DA’s office directly. Thank you so much for anything you can do to help. I promise you will remain anonymous.
So no, Mr. Hickman did not write that letter with the consent of the victim’s widow. Why he would say that I have no idea. As for Fincher not getting any special consideration, the fact is that he was released early and the fact is that Hickman ended his letter with this:
I ask you to consider how difficult it is to be in this position and give weight to my encouragement for an approval for parole status for this inmate.
If you don’t think a letter written to the parole board on the Constable’s official letterhead asking the board to give weight to his request influenced the board, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.
I don’t know if Mr. Hickman is the right man for the job or not. There will be a primary and he will have a challenger or two. Certainly he is the choice of the “insiders” of the Republican Party and that is why he was appointed. He was well received by the club and in fact started out with a standing ovation. He’s been around a long time and knows a lot of people and from what I can tell, most people praise his leadership of the Precinct 4 Constable’s office. And at the end of the day that is what most Republican primary voters care about.
But November is a different story. If, as expected, he is on the ballot next November, he will have to deal with a Democratic opponent in a Presidential election year. And that is not going to be easy, especially if you start out by saying you don’t want the support of a specific group of voters. Remember earlier when I said that he would not be participating in a Gay Pride Parade? That’s fine, most Republican office holders refuse to do that. But I think his problem with the gay community is deeper than that.
During the questions from the club time, Tom Zakes asked him about the Harris County Sheriff’s office website. Tom told him that on the Contact page for the department, there was a “rainbow” flag and wanted to know if any other “bacon, lettuce, tomato” groups had special consideration.
Mr. Hickman was incredulous. He asked “you mean we have a rainbow flag on the website?” Tom assured him that it was there. Hickman just shook his head.
When I got home, I checked the website and sure enough, there was a “rainbow” flag along with a button that you could click on to get information from a “LGBTI Liaison” about coming to your event or if you feel you were discriminated against. I didn’t get a screen capture at the time. I should have because when I checked back an hour later, the “rainbow flag” and contact button were gone. I had to go to the Google cache page to get a screenshot. Here are three screenshots, the first as it was before Zakes asked the question, the second with the information window that pops up when the “LGBTI Liaison” button was clicked and the third is how it appears today (click to enlarge).
Make of that what you will.
And if you like irony as much as I do, how about this? The very Republicans that appointed him supported Adrian Garcia over his opponent, Louis Guthrie, in the 2012 election and did everything they could to get Garcia re-elected.
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