Thursday, November 14, 2019

A Tale of Two Firings

As I alluded to at the end of Friday's blog post about The Belated Firing of John Denholm, the former Intake Division Chief was not the only person who found himself on Kim Ogg's chopping block last week.  On Monday, Ogg fired Section Chief Prosecutor Andrew Smith from the Writs Division following a heated argument with Smith that occurred Thursday.

Unlike Denholm, Andrew Smith was a longtime prosecutor from within the Office who actually earned his position as Section Chief through years of hard work, intelligence, and honesty.  Unlike Denholm, he wasn't fired for anything improper or racist.  Unlike Denholm, Kim Ogg didn't spend eight days deliberating over whether or not she was going to fire Andrew.  She decided to fire him on Thursday evening.  The only reason he wasn't fired on Friday was that he had taken a sick day.  When he returned to work on Monday morning, he was promptly given the opportunity to resign or be fired. 

On principle, he chose the latter option.  As a result, the highly respected Section Chief Writs Prosecutor was ushered out of the Harris County District Attorney's Office under escort.

The grounds for his immediate termination?  He had contradicted Kim Ogg on the record in a Writ Hearing.  

The lengthy details are in this article written by the Houston Chronicle's Keri Blakinger, published this evening.  If you are not able to access the story, here is the most condensed version I can muster:

Shortly after taking Office, Ogg had a conversation with Andrew regarding former HCDA prosecutor Gretchen Flader.  Flader had been one of 38 prosecutors that Ogg had fired/not renewed their employment contracts when she took Office in January of 2017.  In this conversation, Ogg mentioned that she had felt compelled to not renew Flader's contract of employment due to Flader's romantic relationship with another prosecutor, Nick Socias (whom Flader subsequently married).  Ogg was terminating Socias' contact because of the notorious "Jenny Scandal" that was an issue during the 2016 D.A. Race. 

NOTE:  Again, for the record, I would like to point out that Nick got a really bad rap on that, but I'm not going to argue that point here.

There were at least three people Ogg terminated on "Bloody Friday" that lost their jobs because of whom they were married to or in a relationship with.  When Ogg told Andrew that Flader was terminated because of her relationship with Socias, that seemed to make sense.

After Flader's termination, she filed for unemployment.  Inexplicably, Ogg decided to fight Flader on the issue and the Office hired attorney Katherine Mize (who coincidentally was a large donor to Ogg's campaign) to litigate the issue.  Mize argued, on behalf of the Office, that Flader had been non-renewed for prosecutorial misconduct -- a direct contradiction of what Ogg had said to Andrew.  

NOTE:  The amount Flader sought in unemployment was roughly $1500.  I'm not sure how much Mize was paid to fight the case.

Fast forward to last year.  Andrew finds himself in the middle of a Writ hearing against prominent Writ Attorney Randy Schaffer in the State of Texas vs. Feanyichi Uvukansi, a case that Flader had prosecuted at trial.  During the hearing, Schaffer asserted on the record that Flader had been fired for prosecutorial misconduct.  Andrew, recalling his earlier conversation with Ogg, responded on the record by saying:
"Ms. Ogg told me the reason she let go of Ms. Flader is because she was sleeping with the man who was dealing with the Jenny case."
It seemed like a rather innocuous comment at the time it was uttered.  He simply recalled an earlier conversation with Ogg where she said something contrary to what Schaffer was claiming on the record.  In the big scheme of the Writ Hearing, the grounds for Flader's termination were tangential at best.

But if you're Kim Ogg and you've hired one of your campaign donors an outside lawyer to fight an unemployment claim for reasons contrary to what you've previously stated, Andrew's on-the-record statement becomes a little more troubling to you.

On Thursday, she called Andrew into her Office and told him that he must have "misremembered" and that he needed to fix the error.  Andrew told her that he recalled the conversation distinctly, noting it was the first time he had a one-on-one meeting with Ogg.  He noted that he still had the meeting on his calendar, so he could even specify the date, as well.    Nevertheless, she insisted he "correct the record" and he refused.

As noted above, Andrew was encouraged to resign on Monday.  When he refused, he was fired.

Take a moment to fully appreciate the courage of Andrew's actions.

He loved his job at the D.A.'s Office.  He loved it a lot.  He had extremely close friends there and he was good at what he did.  All he had to do to keep his job was to say that he made a mistake on the record.

Except, Andrew knew he didn't make a mistake so he refused.  It would have been so easy to have just said "maybe I was wrong" and get to keep his job.

But he knew he wasn't.

He wasn't going to be bullied into lying, no matter how much the angry elected District Attorney was screaming at him.  Not a lot of people would have had the intestinal fortitude to stand and deliver like Andrew did.

So, in front of his colleagues, he was marched out of the Office.

Yesterday Kim Ogg took it upon herself to file a "Correction of Record" in the State of Texas vs. Feanyichi Uvukansi, which said Andrew had made a "false statement."  The "correction of record" makes no mention of why exactly Andrew would have been motivated to make such a statement.

That's probably because Andrew didn't make a false statement.  And if that's the case, it would seem to me that Kim's sworn statement to correct the record might be construed by some as aggravated perjury.

In an amusing side note, Ogg claims in the "Correction of Record" that she only learned of Andrew's statement last week.   Ironically, Randy Schaffer attacked Ogg's credibility for entirely different reasons.  He pointed out that he had emailed Ogg about Andrew's statements in August.  Confronted with this easily provable point, Ogg noted that she would be filing a Motion to Correct the Correction of Record.

For the unofficial record, I don't know of anyone in the CJC that would put Ogg's credibility ahead of Andrew's.

On a personal note, I would like to specifically tell Andrew how much I admire the stand he made against our elected District Attorney.  He lost a lot in the process.

The world could use more people like Andrew Smith.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Scott Durfee take notes.

Kelly said...

Andrew Smith is a great prosecutor who has the integrity to stand up to bullies. Andrew will land on his feet, Kim will not.

Anonymous said...

She even went so far as to mention Gretchen's relationship with Nick on live TV during her press conference in 2016 before she took office. She has a total lack of integrity and common decency. I feel for all the prosecutors that work at that office.

https://www.click2houston.com/video/ogg-presser

Anonymous said...

She's gone 'round the bend. Ogg is obviously not getting advice, if any, from anyone with half an ethical, legal, or political brain. Her irrational behavior this close to primary season indicates the implosion within her administration continues. - Anon

Anonymous said...

If the chief law enforcement officer of a county asks a subordinate to commit perjury and then retaliates when the subordinate refuses, is that a crime for which they can be indicted? I guess that would be a good question to ask the Texas Rangers and the Texas Attorney Generals office...

Former Foreman said...

Too bad there’s no Grand Jury with steel balls to open an investigation into these allegations of Kim’s Aggravated Perjury.... if there is a Grand Jury Foreman/member reading this and is motivated to pursue this further, perhaps they could call Murray....

Anonymous said...

She shows herself to be more like Trump everyday.

Anonymous said...

Not like Trump. He’s going to be re-elected, Eggnog’s fate is less certain.

Anonymous said...

You misspelled "Hillary".

Anonymous said...

I noted that HCDAO was not listed among the Chronicle’s top places to work in Houston in today’s “ Top Workplaces 2019” section.

Anonymous said...

Kelly, you should question the motives of Smith, or anyone who would work for Ogg, or for that matter Trump.

Anonymous said...

@1:13 unlike the wastes of space that Kim brought in ALL of whom who chose to work for her specifically, many HCDAO employees do the work and have done the work regardless of who the D.A. is because they believe in the work they do. Those folks work for the State of Texas and for the community they represent. And yes, while some leaders can inspire and bring in some good quality government employees, Kim is not someone capable of doing either of those tasks. And you can make all the shit eating grin comments you want, but Smith is absolutely someone who did the work because he believed in it. Miserable disastrous D.A.’s like Ogg and Lykos didn’t change his mission, which was to serve the community.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:13 Really? What an incredibly stupid thing to say. Fortunately we have people loyal to institutions rather than the narcissists who run those institutions. Those people like Andrew can make a difference. By the way what the hell does Trump have to do with this? Go obsess and watch MSNBC.

Anonymous said...

I was a HCDA when Andrew started and had the honor of working with him during my nine years at HCDA. It was clear from the beginning that Andrew was more intelligent than most of us and his talents were in appeals and later writs. I routinely relied on Andrew for help in legal research and can count a dozen times where he bailed me out in the middle of trial or a hearing, dropping what ever he was doing to make sure we had what we needed. His honesty and integrity have never wavered. I know he loved what he did and I also know he will end up somewhere better. I hope whomever hires him knows what an incredible talent they will be getting. Andrew is an amazing person, amazing attorney and I'm heartbroken at how Ogg has painted him as a liar. Another massive loss for HCDA. Keep your head up Andrew, and thank you for standing up for what is right.

Todd

Anonymous said...

Dear 8:13:

Your link does not seem to be working....

Anonymous said...

Dear 9:26, and 12:08:

You need to calm down, and take your blood pleasure medicine. I don’t know where Smith got his inspiration, or if he has any credibility. I do know that if you’re a senior ADA you’re judged by the people you associate with, and work for whether it’s Ogg, or Lykos. Just like every other place, the DA’s Office has its good, bad, and ugly. If you’re an attorney and you’re not careful, it can be a big bad world out there; and you’re a fool if you assume good motives, credibility, or even inspiration.

Whether you’re in the DA’s office, or private practice, you have to protect yourself. That means not only protecting yourself from defense attorneys that might hear a conversation and remember it differently than you, but also protect yourself from a boss with the reputation of Ogg who could do the same. Smith is not a new born babe, and he certainly has good reason to know how Ogg operates regardless of his desire to serve the community, and the best ends of justice. If Ogg is that bad, perhaps you need to carry a small digital recorder like a certain writ lawyer does. (And by the way, he records ADAs without telling them.)

And if you can’t trust the person you work for then find another job, or walk around all day with a shit eating grin. A DA’s Office run by Kim Ogg owes you nothing. A number of Trump employees who work in the Whitehouse are learning the same lesson. And you should read a little more, and spend less time watching Fox.

Anonymous said...

12:52 - You said it yourself. You “don’t know”. What a small world view you have.

Anonymous said...

Following this from Corpus Christi, I have some observations:

First, the Jenny Scandal was handled horribly by Devon Anderson, I think we can all agree on that (given that, ANYONE would have beaten Devon Anderson, IMO).

That being said, Kim Ogg took all the goodwill she had from her win and has just flushed it down the drain and, while Kim Ogg accomplished some good (most notably the Jenny's Law act), well, it seems like she really needs to go, IMO, given how much she managed to screw things up by firing prosecutors (to be fair, Jenny's prosecutor DESERVED to be fired; there is NO excuse there) who didn't deserve to be fired at all, among other things (including her handling of the David Temple case; IMO, Temple did it and Ogg mishandled it)...

To quote Johnny Ringo from Tombstone with regards to Kim Ogg, "Well, bye."

Winkky said...

I bet she had something on Landers that made him shake in his boots so bad, he was trying to have a client silenced for good.

Anonymous said...

I bet she had something on Landers that he was so shaken up, he actually tried to silence a client for good.