Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Shirley Cornelius

Shirley Cornelius turned in her letter of resignation to the Harris County District Attorney's Office on Wednesday.

In light of the massive exodus of long term prosecutors that has occurred over the past year and eight months, facially, it would seem that Shirley's resignation was no more nor less significant than those who have resigned before her (or the ones who will be resigning in the months to come). But a closer look at Shirley's departure is actually very telling on many levels about the Pat Lykos administration and the way they treat their employees.

Shirley leaves after a 27 year career with the District Attorney's Office that began under Johnny Holmes. Both of her brothers, Skip and Terry had served distinguished careers with the Office and are now highly respected members of the Defense Bar. Working for the D.A.'s Office was something of a Family Tradition for the Cornelius family, and they all did their family name proud during their tenure.

Most people know that.

What most people might not know is that during the fifth year of her career, Shirley's 10-month old son was diagnosed with static encephalopathy, which is permanent brain damage. As he grew older, her son's health problems grew to include Autism and Mental Retardation.

At that time, Mr. Holmes was the District Attorney, and he made sure that the Office worked with Shirley and her family to do everything that they could to help. Shirley had to meet the challenging needs of getting her son ready for his school, and Mr. Holmes approved her for "flex time", which allowed her to work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

It was a Reasonable Accommodation and the right thing to do. And it was something that continued for Shirley for the remainder of Mr. Holmes' tenure, into the Rosenthal Administration, and even under interim D.A. Ken Magidson. It even continued under the Lykos Administration until May 17th of this year.

And on May 17th, under the Lykos Administration, the Office let go of its Moral Conscience when it came to how it treats its employees. And keep in mind, this comes from the same District Attorney who has done this and this (oh, and this) to her employees.

What Lykos and the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight did to Shirley Cornelius was much worse.

On May 17th, Shirley was transferred to the Truancy Division, and notified that she would no longer be allowed the 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. accommodation. She was told that she would need to work the 8 to 5 schedule like everyone else. Keep in mind, Shirley still has to care for her now-22 year old son, who still has all of the difficulties that he has always had. Even the most minimal of tasks such as getting dressed and brushing teeth are things that she has to do for him.

To add insult to injury, over the Memorial Day weekend, Shirley spent it at the office, moving into the office for her new Truancy position, and learning how to enter data on the cases she would be handling. This type of work has always always always been approved for "Comp Time" in years past, as it is outside regular business hours and something that you must do for your job.

Rightfully so, Shirley filled out her time sheet and listed the hours she spent moving her office and doing the data entry as Comp Time. She clearly and accurately listed the hours she had spent.

A few days later, Shirley was informed by her supervisor that Lykos' right-hand woman, Hannah Chow had refused to approve Shirley's comp time hours.

Now, keep in mind what a steaming pile of B.S. it is that Hannah Chow is arbitrarily deciding to not approve comp time after it has already been worked. When questioned about the decision, Chow brushed off the insanity of her decision with a simple "we do it all the time" and stated that Shirley would not be allowed to earn any comp time at all.

Shirley took the news with class and chose not to argue with Chow's unilateral decision, and that would have been the end of the story, if Lykos and Crew had not tried to push the issue further.

Chow sent notice that she wanted her to change her timesheet to reflect that she had not ever actually earned the comp hours in the first place.

Here's where things get a little interesting.

You see, since Assistant District Attorneys work for the Government, that kinda sorta makes their timesheet a Government Document. If you think that government employees have been filed on for altering their time sheets before, you would be 100% correct. It's a little felony offense that we like to call Tampering with a Government Document. Don't believe me? Ask former-Justice of the Peace Mark Fury.

Shirley refused to alter her time sheet for that very reason and was told if she wanted to get her paycheck, then she better turn in her revised time sheet. She stood her ground and told her supervisor that she would not be revising her time sheet until someone explained to her how she could do so legally.

The team of geniuses that comprise the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight had no response. Ultimately, they had no choice but to accept her time sheet as is. She stood her ground. (NOTE: to any other ADAs who have been placed in a similar situation by the Administration, you might want to keep Shirley's story in mind.)

So, after having the Pat Lykos Administration take away her reasonable accommodation to care for her son, and then encourage her to commit a felony, Shirley Cornelius finally turned in her letter of resignation on August 25th.

Her last (official) day as a Harris County employee was today, August 31st.

Her 27th anniversary with the Office.


44 comments:

BLACK INK said...

Shirley and the Cornelius clan are all class acts.
So is Johnny Holmes and many former ADAs who have left the office as a direct consequence of Pat Lykos.

Class is not something you are appointed or elected to....it is an inate characteristic that Pat Lykos and the incompetents she has drug into the CJC on her coat tails will never embrace.

As Don Smyth crushed Rachael Palmer so shall it come to pass for Pat Lykos.....and THAT is a guarantee.

Anonymous said...

Good job, Shirley! Thank you for your years of service. And, thank you for showing us young prosecutors that we can stand up against this dictatorship.

This office is a joke.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to Shirley. My heart goes out to my fellow prosecutors who continue to just tread water until a life boat comes and saves this office.

Mostly though, my heart goes out to the victims. They are the ones who truly suffer from this administration's lack of leadership.

Anonymous said...

Uh, isn't this a crime?

Anonymous said...

Most people view their job as just a paycheck. When I started at the office, I would have worked for free if asked. Reason: it was fun; it was fulfilling. You knew someone (6th floor) had your back.

Now, I am becomming more like "most."

I see this job as just a paycheck and, sadly, don't take much pride in the work I do.

Why: It's not fun; it's not fulfilling. No one from 6th floor cares about backing you up in your day-to-day decisions.

Anon 4:28, forget the life-boat....jumping ship soon.

Anonymous said...

This story makes me sick to my stomach.

jigmeister said...

For many years, Shirley was assigned to writs, doing a job that most of us didn't know how to do. Never a complaint and doing a fine job; just ask Roe or anyone's case she saved. Patty and team come in and demote her and send her to "Truancy" and cut her salary by $25,000 a year so there is more for her executive team. Office morale? Obviously unimportant.

Anonymous said...

This is disgusting. I was privileged to work for Johnny Holmes for 6 years. Shirley was and still is a class act. God bless you, Shirley.

Jeff K. said...

How many people have left the DA's office since Pat Lykos took office?

Anonymous said...

Media...? Why aren't the voters of Harris County hearing stories like this?

Anonymous said...

I am somebody who has been loyal to the judge and has found myself in a bind after something was published in the media without my knowledge. The Judge thought it looked bad for her and I was brought to the 6th floor.

How can you be loyal to somebody who has no loyalties. This is a real question and one that we should consider. Her first assistant who I will not mention for google purposes (and someone I respected) has become neutered. He seemed to be a patriarch type. Not so much. He is a bitch. Plain and simple.

Do those of you in the public know how many times people are called to his office and are told, "I am sorry, I have no control over this."

I must say, I have not been a fan of this blog but what has happened to me and what continues happen makes me one.

I tried my hardest to be loyal to the first assistant (first) and therefore the Judge. I can't do it anymore. I agree with anon 4:44

LDavidson said...

I was a baby #3 in District Court when Carl Hobbs was my chief and Shirley was my #2. Shirley was pregnant with the little guy at that time. It was her 1st pregnancy. She worked really hard and tried a number of cases, while being very pregnant and very excited about the pregnancy. She was truly dedicated to the job, not only then, but right up to the end. What this administration did to her is unbelievable....UNBELIEVABLE!! As Blank Ink said, "Class is not something you are...elected to." SHAME ON YOU HANNAH CHOW, SHAME ON YOU CLINT GREENWOOD, SHAME ON YOU ROGER BRIDGEWATER, SHAME ON YOU JIM LEITNER, AND SHAME ON YOU PAT LYKOS!! I, at sometime in my 23 years experience with the DA's Office worked with each and everyone of you. Whether it be as a person assigned to your court, or as the Deputy Chief in Misdemeanor, or as a Division Chief, or chief assigned to your court, or just as a law school buddy who worked in Grand Jury with you and thought you hung the moon and even took up for you when everyone else was trashing you, shame on you! You won the election. We all get that, including Kelly. But, why do what you are doing? Why do you continue to trash and denounce everyone who disagrees with you? Quite obviously, it is because you are a bunch of cowards!! Real people own up to what they have to say...cowards don't. In the next couple of months, you are going to lose really, and I mean really good people. An office that was, for a time,considered #4 in the Nation, will dry up to a drivvle,will no longer exist. What a legacy to uphold! Wow! I know what your response will be...sour grapes...we cut her loose so she is being ugly. Say and Do what you want....everyone knows that I left after being told I didn't have a job anymore, and never caused a problem....but as much as you don't want to admit it....I WAS AN ASSET to that office and I am sick of what you are doing to the hard working people who consider that more of a job than an career. I am speaking to many that I won't name because you will throw them under the bus. You won the election. You have a job to do. It is time to quit defending why you won and it is time to start showing why you deserved to win. It is time to start doing your job!! In the meantime, Shame on you!!

Luci Davidson

Anonymous said...

Even more ironic is that Shirley was "friends" with Lykos before she took office, had worked in her court years before. Shirley had gone to lunch with her and was on good enough terms with "the Judge" that she could pick up the phone and intercede for people whose jobs were considered to be at risk. Little did she know that in the end, hers would be as well!! Once again, even loyalty to Lykos (never mind loyalty to the office) is not enough.

This is very much like watching a revolution in a third world country. The Reign of Terror continues. No one is safe.

Goodbye and good luck, Shirley, and thank you for your dedication and service. The citizens of Harris County are the losers once again.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't the media care? Because Lykos was sucking their teets long before she ran for DA. They know better than to bite the hand that feeds them. I ran into Bridgewater at the courthouse the other day. He gave me his trademark "hello brother" and gave me a hug. I forgot for just a few minutes that this is the lackey for Pat who helped facilitate Donna's departure from the office. Every once in awhile, I see Leitner. This man used to be the person that ADA's wanted as their boss in the DA's office. He has become such a tool for Lykos, that none of us recognize him anymore. Chow has never had any class or backbone, and she is going to develop a bad back from all the bending over she is doing to kiss Pat's ass. Well, Pat, Jim, Hannah and Roger, all of you can kiss MY ass. You have turned an incredible office with extraordinarily talented men and women into a social experiment, filled with "yes men". I am so disappointed in the office. I miss Johnny Holmes. Mr. Holmes, please come back!

Anonymous said...

Murray,

It seems you should get some at the AUSA office or even the FBI to look at this. Asking an employee to lie on a goverment document is a crime and therefor needs to be investigated.

BLACK INK said...

Luci Davidson,
BRAVO!
Few commenters have the courage to sign their names to this comment board......on either side of the bench.

The creme de la creme of any profession excels because of a passion for the area of expertise.

A prosecutor that is devoid of passion for victims rights will be, at best, mediocre in his pursuit of JUSTICE.
Passionate prosecutors become Rock Stars in the effective pursuit of justice....while serving others.

Successful politicians have an equally strong passion; albeit for the pursuit of self aggrandizement.
Politicians have a total disregard for the needs of others.....others are here to serve them.

So Luci, don't loose sight of the dynamics at our old office....Kelly IS a Rock Star prosecutor and Pat Lykos is JUST a politician.

Ron in Houston said...

Murry

I'm with you on Lykos and the gang.

In my mind you went into hyperbolic rant mode when you said "encouraged her to commit a felony."

Like I said, it's not that I disagree it's just the rhetoric is a bit over the top.

Anonymous said...

I am disgusted and thank God I am retired. It is really not a big surprise that this continues to happen with Patty at the helm. Remember she ran her court into the ground as well as firing most of her staff frequently. I guess in her new position she just has more people to ruin. Shirley you are better off- I had the pleasure of working with you and your brothers for many years. Good Luck...

Anonymous said...

Shirley should look for an employment attorney who can file a case against the DA's office under the SABINE PILOT Act. That is a little law that states you cannot be asked to do something illegal by your employer. Go get em Shirley!!!

Anonymous said...

It's the tip of the iceberg--There are at least 7 people in the felony ranks leaving by the end of the year. SEVEN. And that is merely the common knowledge ones. Good lord almighty.

Anonymous said...

I worked in appellate with Shirley for years. She loves her family, loved her job as an ADA, and she is a very funny lady.

Something she told me that I will never forget:

"I give every kid a box of bandaids and a flashlight for his or her birthday. You can't go wrong with a box of bandaids and a flashlight. Every kid loves them."

As a parent myself, she is so right. She will be missed.

Anonymous said...

Few commenters have the courage to sign their names to this comment board

Look who's talking.

I tell you what, Black Ink. I'll show you mine, if you show me yours.

And even though I'm a Democrat, that's not a pick up line.

Rage

Anonymous said...

Rage, the difference between you and Black Ink is that none of us really care who you are. You're just a pathetïc liberal loser.

Anonymous said...

Let's see if we can connect the dots here:

Pat Lykos & Hannah Chow are desperately trying to cut the budget so Lykos can make political mileage out of it.

They demote people like Don Smyth to save a few bucks. Then they promote people but, unlike other departments, the promotee receives no commensurate salary increase.

Next, they look for someone like Shirley who has worked 9 am to 6 pm for over 20 years. They cut her salary by 25% and assign her to an off-site location that requires her to be in Court at 8:00 A.M.

Do they bother to discuss this with her beforehand or even give her a heads up? Of course not; no one can question their Judicial Authority! We rule by fiat.

Their actions were clearly designed to cause Shirley to retire. Congratulations Pat. Another loyal employee is crushed by the Lykos Greyhound Express.

Who is your next sacrificial target?

Anonymous said...

Rage,
The reason you were hazed at VMI Jr. College so much more than the others was because you were a pissant. Your continued pettyness demonstrates the upper classmen's failure to break you of this annoying personality disorder.
USMC '87

Tenderfoot said...

Hmmm interesting. A lot of Harris County agencies have violated the law or made the attempt while trying to get away with something stupid. The 'inner circle good ole boy' mentality will always dominate in this place!

Anonymous said...

Tenderfoot,
You make a very good point. The Judge and the Chuckster need adjoining cells......and Wee Man Leitner can be their jailhouse biotch.
I used to think that Chuck Rosenthal was the rudest most narcissistic DA I ever met--that is until I met Pat Lykos. WOW! Chuck was a neophyte in comparison.
It is amazing even more ADAs haven't bailed--at least we can credit the bad economy with preventing a total meltdown exodus at Harris County's District Attorney's Office.

Anonymous said...

I had the privilege of working with both Terry and Shirley back in the 80s and they were a true asset to the office. I also had the misfortune of serving a stint in Lykos court for a while. She wasn't worth crap as a judge but at least the damage she could do was limited. Thanks GOP, for pushing this unqualified harpie on the public

Anonymous said...

The GOP has prostituted itself repeatedly by pushing someone they think can be elected regardless of whether they are qualified. Lykos is a prime example. The fact that she actually got elected was also a result of the "perfect storm" with other contributing factors, none of which included her being qualified.

How can we get this message out to the public and put a halt to her destruction??

Anonymous said...

Shirley, I am wishing you and your family the best of luck. I am so sorry this happened to you. You were a pleasure to work with and I thank you for your lifetime of service to the citizens of Harris County.

Luci, I give you major props for saying what you said. I agree with you completely!

Leaving that office last year was one the best decisions I have ever made. If I had know then what I know now, it would have been a much easier decision for me. I struggled and struggled with it. But about 18 months later, and watching so many good ADAs get thrown under the bus by this administration, I have never regretted my decision. I am just sad for my friends who are still there...underappreciated and treated like dirt.

And it is now hard to look at Jim and Roger in the eye...men I once respected as attorneys and men I wanted to see in leadership positions at the HCDAO. I'm so unbelievably disappointed in them.

Anonymous said...

Got it. Every anon poster is a cowardly, liberal loser, unless you agree with him.

That's what I thought.

Rage

Anonymous said...

Rage a/k/a the cowardly liberal loser,
Talk to the Wizard and see if he'll give you the courage to shed your annonymity.
That'll be 10 demerits for your insolant hypocrisy. Extra Duty will go as scheduled in full dress at 0500 hrs every morning until further notice.
USMC '87

Anonymous said...

Good Luck Shirley, and thank you.

Thank you for your service. But more so, thank you for teaching me to be a better prosecutor, lawyer, person, and especially a better parent.

Fred Wilson

Anonymous said...

Experiment: let's see if we can get a tally of ADAs who used to really enjoy their jobs, but now are struggling just to care. I am one.

Anonymous said...

The Lykos administration presents a remarkable contrast to that of John B. Holmes; succinctly it the antithesis. Whereas under Holmes the primary objective was to prosecute under the laws promulgated by the Legislature so long as it did not result in a "damn fool result", and regardless of the whims of the Comical editorial staff, under the current administration the objective patently appears to be to prosecute under a law (including some fantasized) so long as they are in harmony with the Comical's paradigm and template.
What is most distressing, however, is the manner in which dedicated and long time employees chronicled herein, too numerous to mention, but of which Shirley Cornelius is but one example, have been treated by what at time appears to be an almost manical administration. November, 2012, can not come too soon for a number of reasons, but one of which is the banishment of the current administration.

Anonymous said...

Quines mas estupido, Patricia Lykos o Hannah Chow?

Anonymous said...

Rumor around here is that Lykos is getting ready to put this whole thing on somone else's table and will be shifting the blame. Way to go Pat! You ought to be ashamed of what your office has done to destroy morale in the past two years!! What are you going to do when you are able to hire again?There are few attorneys that will come and work for you after seeing the way you have treated the experienced prosecutors in your office?

It was stated earlier in these comments and stated VERY WELL... "My heart goes out to my fellow prosecutors who continue to just tread water until a life boat comes and saves this office." That is precisely what we are doing and biting our tounges until this bad dream is over. Hopefully Harris County will learn a lesson from this. There are quite a few of us at the office who simply can not speak out for fear of our jobs. with the economy as bad as it is and all... Pat uses this to her advantage as to say no one is unhappy, communication is good, etc... We will continue to do right by the citizens of Harris County because it is the right thing to do, but Houston, We have had a problem for a while and as long as this bully keeps the media pacified and the politico snowed over, she will continue to shine. That is shameful, but that is the truth we are stuck with.

As I say quite often,,, Thank you Murray for providing a forum that allows a view from the inside. Most of what I read here is an accurate portrayal of what we deal with and this blog does not go un-noticed around the office on Monday morning (or any other, I might add).

Anonymous said...

In June of 2009 Bureau Chief Roger Bridgewater got on his high horse at show and tell and essentially said, "Lykos won. Get over it" The fall out of his pontification was the now, well documented Donna Goode incident, wherein Donna was fired for being insubordinate to an equal.

Newsflash to Roger and crew. We got over it a long time ago. Perhaps what needed to be said was, "Lykos you won. Now be a leader." True leadership does not come with sound bytes, or renaming programs. True leadership does not come with surrounding yourself with yes men who you seek to intimidate with every turn.

I wonder what Pat would say, if asked if she has any regrets about her first twenty months in office. Would it be none, or would it be that she was sorry that she did not fire more people?

What the administration has failed to realize at every turn, was that virtually every "crisis" situation they found themselves in provided the perfect opportunity to turn this ship around and show real leadership. The "Shirley Incident" as we are now calling it at the office is yet another example. Alas, like a poor marksman they keep missing the target. They are too concerned with politics and this blog, rather than what their statutory duty is.

I stay because I truly care about the office and working for the people of this county. I am not the only one who yearns for true leadership in a job I view as a calling.

Lead follow or get out of the way.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1050-If things are so bad for you, why dont you leave like the rest had to do? Afraid to get out in the real world? Murray has done well.Sounds like you do not want to leave your gravy train.

Anonymous said...

Could be worse, you could have a Democrat like they do over on
Baker St. Then Commissioners Court would be starving you out.

BLACK INK said...

ANON 8:17,

You are a hammer and anon 10:50 is a bent nail.
A bent nail has the potential to do the job correctly but performs better if straighted out.

Anonymous said...

Anon 817--
Real world? Gravy train? Suck it, jackhole. The people in the trial bureau are putting in 12+ hours a day, and barely surviving. If that ain't the real world, what is?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a bunch of cry babies working at 1201. Sucking up to the Judge during the day and complaining at night.Do they complain when the comp time rolls around?

Anonymous said...

Anon 533--
Sounds like someone who doesn't know jackshit about anything that happens in 1201.

Hope you don't have any clients there.