Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Joys of Being a County Employee

As noted in my last post, the Harris County Criminal Justice Center was shut closed on both Tuesday and today (Wednesday) of this week in the wake of heavy rains that hit late Monday night.  As per usual, our beloved CJC building failed to withstand the devastating power of nature.  The garage flooded.  The elevators stopped running.  The tunnels flooded.  They were on reserve power.

Harris County employees were told not to come into work. They were then told that they had to take either Comp or Vacation time, instead.

For the lawyers in the building (whether they be prosecutors or public defenders), this wasn't really that big of an inconvenience.  Most of them have plenty of comp time from the hours they work before eight, after five, or on the weekends.   They could also probably get away with doing some trial prep at home or doing some field investigations, if they were feeling ambitious.

For support personnel, however, this wasn't really an option.  Although investigators may earn some amount of comp time in the course of their job, more often than not, it isn't a large amount that accumulates.  Administrative Assistants, however, are the ones who really get screwed.  They work straight eight hour shifts and never earn comp time.

So, basically, Administrative Assistants have no choice but to take their vacation hours, or just go unpaid.  This isn't a new thing.  It happened when we were all ordered out of the building in the wake of Hurricane Ike.  During that particular natural disaster, there was raw sewage backing up into the CJC and we were forbidden to be there.

But we still had to take vacation or comp time.

So, basically, Harris County builds a building that can't withstand a rainstorm and the employees are having to pay the price.  In an ideal world, the geniuses that built that piece of crap building would have to reimburse the county for the cost of an employee's salary on the day said employee couldn't go into the building.  Unfortunately, under county rules, shit runs downhill.  The Powers that Be have the authority to ban employees from working, but they don't get held accountable for failing to provide a safe work environment for them.  The employees have to give away their carefully accumulated (and usually already-planned-for) vacation time.

I can't imagine that ever working in the private sector.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes you are the nail. Sometimes you are the hammer.

Belinda sent out a series of emails yesterday that contradicted each other about exempt employees and non exempt employees. First she was working with HR to see that ADA's didnt have to make up the time they were away from work. Then ADA's didnr have to make up the time. Then, late in the day, ADA's did have to make up the time. She tried to soften the blow by offering options available (work enrichment activity), but the point was made. Perhaps she should have simply waited until she knew for sure? Who really knows what a "work related enrichment activity" consists of and how would it count as time?

What boggles the mind is that we were instructed NOT to report to work. The county buildings were closed. Yet, we still have to account for time as if we were at work when it would have been impossible to do. Got to love the logic here.

Good post, Murray.

Anonymous said...

It could be worse. You could work for the probation department where earning comp time takes an act of congress. Stupid asst director/dictator brian lovins even forced all probation employees to use up all their comp time before using vacation or sick time when he came on board.

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall being required to stand outside as a group as an alternative to having to take comp or vacation when the building was inaccessible.

Anonymous said...

Its insanity. "The best job in the world" is slowly becoming a royal pain in the ass. What happened to the promise of returning the DA's office to the "good ol days" where comradere and pride reigned supreme?

Its micro-management at its best (or worst) and control of every person's move for the sake of control and statistics.

It is still so much better than the Lykos days where everyone ran scared and looked behind their back. However, the divide is growing and the joy is diminishing. its times like this week when the flooding, building issues, dockets and trying times at the office should bring people together, not pull them apart and pit labor against management, attorney against attorney.

C'mon Devon, stand up and take charge. The office still has faith in you and wants you to succeed. Keep your promises.

-A weathered DA

Anonymous said...

I am not a design engineer, a structural engineer, a hydrologist, or any of the world’s major decision makers, however when these structures were being erected I make the commit several times, “I would not build them next to the Major water outflow from this metropolis - to the Gulf of Mexico, there will come a time when this will be a problem”.

Anonymous said...

Knew it. It is all Devon's fault.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't even seem legal. After putting up with crap like this for 8 years, I couldn't be happier to be done with it. The crap you put up with at the DA's office is ridiculous. And the lifers wonder why the rest of us leave.... It's amazing to me. You couldn't pay me (or most former DA's) enough money to ever put up with that nonsense again. And maybe Devon wasn't the one who made this decision but it doesn't even matter. Same crap, different day... Apparently regardless of who's in charge, they can't seem to get their act together enough to make it a halfway decent place to work. Sometimes I think they're delusional.

Thomas Hobbes said...

Sorry, Murray, but I'm not feeling sympathetic.

I've been reading the comments and trying to come up with a warm, fuzzy response, but I'm rarely sympathetic to negligent ignorance. The comments reflect dissatisfaction with policies that have been in place for a long time and are clearly communicated in the County personnel regulations.

If you believed that you wouldn't have to make up the missed time, then you paid the regs no heed. Whether exempt or nonexempt, County employees are treated as hourly employees who are paid an hourly rate for hours worked. You cannot be paid unless you actually perform work or have paid leave available, regardless of the reason you were absent from work. The rags encourage employees to accrue and bank some paid leave for emergencies and advise that absences attributable to inclement weather, disasters, and building emergencies will be covered using accrued paid leave and/or dock time.

If this type of situation bothers you, move to the private sector. But if you came to the County looking for the security of steady public employment at the taxpayers' expense, you need to grow up and understand the rules of the game you asked to play.

Anonymous said...


In some respects you are correct. However, as a previous poster said above, it is the communication gap that has many people feeling like they are not valued, which really comes to light with situations kike the recent floods. It breeds resentment and mistrust.

Policies are policies and you generally should be aware of what you are signing up for if you take a position at the DA's office. Having to burn time ir not is just one symptom of a larger problem. Its not the end of the world, by any stretch of the imagination, but it does have an effect of the day to day erosion of the "sense of family" that is trying to be re-instilled post Patsy.

What many of us saw - and continue to see is an "evey man for themself" mentality that is creeping its way through the office. Figure it out or fail. Its not great example for the newcomers, its not a sense of change for the old timers and it showed its ugly face recently with the floods, the lack of direction from the "Girls". Many of us got more information like you did, from Judges and social media becsuase our leaders were too self absorbed to help out with timely information - that was contradictory and not helpful. NOT A WAY TO BUILD A STRONG COMMUNITY.

I think that is what he or she was referrinng to - sympathy or not. It was poorly handled from the top

Just Sayin' said...

Anon 7:29,

Respect is earned; it can never be demanded.

Devon & Co.don't understand this basic leadership principle and when challenged throw out the misogynistic card. Reminds me of the DA in Baltimore and the race card excuse.

Leaders lead; excuse makers make excuses.

Just Sayin'

Anonymous said...

C'mon Just Sayin,

Show us how its done! Please run for DA so we can all hear the leadership wisdom pour forth from your lips like water from a beautiful fountain.

When you are no longer anonymous, you can get the praise you richly deserve.

Just Sayin' said...

Anon 1:33,

Careful what you wish for GF………I accept your challenge. We will tee it up soon my anonymous hypocrite.

Just Sayin'

Anonymous said...

As I predicted, promises promises. BTW, I can assure that I am neither a G nor your F. Although once again you set yourself up assuming that all non Devon haters are girls. It is always you that play the gender card.

Clearly the new mantra for the Harris County District Attorney's Office should be WWJSD? What would Just Sayin' do?

Mr. Anonymous 1:33

Anonymous said...

1:33 you asked WWJSD? From the looks of his writing he would get an EEOC complaint filed against him if he were DA.

Just Sayin' said...

Dearest GF a/k/a Gadfly,

It is generally a good idea to avoid drawing a conclusion before all the facts are in.

A good trial lawyer does his/her best to avoid surprises. He/she does not assume and throughly prepares. They have an appreciation for all the facts of the case and anticipate how they might play out from the other side's point of view. This attention to detail separates the excuse makers from the rock stars.

GF might mean "girlfriend" but nobody asked, rather they assumed it. The subsequent vitriol was predicated on that assumption and very predictable.

Chuck Rosenthal's wrist band with the acronym, "WWJD" was as ridiculous as your predicate.

WWJSD…………you can be assured it would not be what Rosenthal, Lykos or Team Anderson have done. You can book that.

Just Sayin'

Anonymous said...

Clearly Just Sayin' is a rock star.

Anonymous said...

Clearly Devon is not…...

Thomas Hobbes said...

"A good trial lawyer does his/her best to avoid surprises. He/she does not assume and throughly prepares. They have an appreciation for all the facts of the case and anticipate how they might play out from the other side's point of view. This attention to detail separates the excuse makers from the rock stars."

So how did you uber-prepared lawyers not notice you were getting incorrect information? Maybe you should have read the terms of your County employment . . . :-)

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:47,

Hopefully you are not an ADA!

lol lol lol

Anonymous said...

Thomas, clearly the point that the future DA made was that they're not "uber-prepared.

Thomas Hobbes said...

Face it, you work for humans; in this case, humans who were not in charge the last time the County had a similar experience and who made an unfortunately incorrect call. At least they tried to do the right thing and walk back their statements as soon as they realized the error. It's always hard to be in charge and be wrong, and leaders run the risk of being wrong every single day. Throwing stones is so much easier . . . just sayin'.

What happened to you and your work hours as County employees (because being ADAs really is irrelevant in this conversation) has not one thing to do with how you are or are not valued. It was driven by County policies beyond Devon's control. My rather singular point through all of this is that it is that you also are responsible for understanding enough about the terms of your employment to know when you're being given questionable information and to ask better questions of your leaders.

Anonymous said...

Anon1:53 Hopefully neither is Just Sayin.

boo hoo boo hoo boo hoo

Anonymous said...

You're right Thom. Hobbs, Devon is just doing an outstanding job. Moral is waaaay up, cases are being disposed of judiciously and justice is being served every day better than Vance and Holmes ever dreamed of. Anyone who dares criticize her "leadership" is a sour grapes loser.
The Chuckster and Patsy were also exemplary leaders and anyone who dares criticize their "leadership" skills is equally out of line.
It shouldn't matter if leaders make the right call. So long as they tried to make a good call they deserve a trophy. Everyone in leadership is a winner and all who challenge their authority are losers.

How dare anyone have the gall to criticize Ms. Anderson and her highly qualified lieutenants! Have you no shame Just Sayin' ?
I mean Boo Hoo Hoo.

wayne davis said...

What does P-C FND NO ARRE mean

Murray Newman said...

It means probable cause was found on a warrant but no arrest was made.

Anonymous said...


Welcome back Patrick Stayton!

Anonymous said...

Only in Harris County

Anonymous said...


A DA can demand the county pay their people. The principal has that ability.

Thomas Hobbes said...

I understand mine is an unwelcome and unpopular opinion, but the county's personnel rules are pretty clear on this point. The principal absolutely may demand whatever she wishes, but there's a reason she didn't demand the county pay her people. The county would politely refuse. The personnel rules in place apply to all county employees, including those in the employ of elected officials, and employees cannot be paid for work not performed. Those instances must be covered by using accrued paid leave or dock time.

Anonymous said...


Here it comes again

Anonymous said...

I am joyed to not be working there anymore!! I am happy I came across this blog. My time there was full of being told how to do things one way then being penalized and told another. No formal training, no training on the systems of any sort other than by employees who over the years have developed their own habits. Additions come into play with the systems yet no training is provided for those so we basically just figure it out as we go. I was an admin, and was never really told how what was what and in the end it caused problems. Then you have the chiefs who have their BFF's of the office and discuss confidential employee information with them, and then that person goes off and discusses it with their employees. It is full of double standards and manipulation. The knife stays in your back and you stay looking over your shoulder. Don't even get me started on the administration of the DA's office. They decide as they go and are judgmental. Prosecutors hook up in offices, Administration (6th floor) are the first people to tell individuals the low down on certain employees conduct, termination and why. It is all a joke behind those walls.