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.