WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A day after Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody’s arrest, critics say he is not holding himself to the same standard he holds his deputies to.
Chody says he will continue in his role while under felony indictment, but employees and their lawyers say they were never given that option.
“This is a classic ‘do as I say, not as I do’ case, ” said Criminal Defense Attorney Robert McCabe.
McCabe has represented and helped represent several Williamson County deputies fired by Chody. One case in particular deals with a detective charged with a misdemeanor DWI case.
“He was terminated as a detective immediately by Sheriff Chody,” said McCabe. “Chody’s standard is that if you are arrested, then you are terminated. You are of no use to him as a peace officer.”
The Texas Municipal Police Association is helping fund two whistleblower lawsuits against the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office for alleging employees were fired who were reporting policy violations.
“The attorney who is representing the member submits a request to TMPA,” said Kevin Lawrence, TMPA executive director. “It has been nonstop since he took over.”
Lawrence says the association has filed several complaints of wrongful firings since Chody has been in office.
“If Chody was going to be held to the same standard he has held his other employees to, then he would have fired himself by now,” said Lawrence.
KXAN looked closely at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office Discipline Policy. While it says “the agency abides by the philosophy that discipline must be applied consistently and uniformly,” it ultimately leaves all discipline decisions up to the sheriff.
“He is the juror, the judge and the executioner. He is Congress, the President and the Supreme Court,” said Lawrence.
While the sheriff’s office didn’t respond to KXAN’s follow-up questions about discipline policies Tuesday, Chody denied any wrongdoing in his response to the indictment announcement on Monday.
“I look forward to prevailing in the election, being exonerated of these false charges and continuing to protect and serve the people of Williamson County. I’m proud to be the sheriff of Williamson County,” said Chody on Monday. “Let the truth come out before you make a decision. You will see what comes out, and people will realize the truth will prevail.”
A significant part of Chody’s response to the indictment was to assert it was politically motivated.
KXAN reached out to Williamson County commissioners for their thoughts on Chody’s indictment. Two of the five responded:
Yesterday’s indictment by a grand jury of Sheriff Chody’s peers for tampering with evidence and his subsequent arrest is very serious. If found guilty, Robert Chody should be removed from office and held accountable for his crime. Calling out the alleged bad behavior of the County’s top cop doesn’t mean I don’t support law enforcement. Quite the contrary. I steadfastly support the good cops but there is no place in law enforcement for those that discredit and disgrace the badge.Cynthia Long, Precinct 2
Texas law requires District Attorney Shawn Dick to bring any violations of the law, neglect or failure of duty of any officer to the Grand Jury. Despite Sheriff Chody’s gaslighting, District Attorney Shawn Dick’s actions are not political. His actions are legally required. He is doing his job.Russ Boles, Precinct 4
The 2020 Census could change the way the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office handles officer discipline. State law says if a county has a population of 190,000 or more, then its commissioners can create a civil service system for county employees that would govern personnel matters within its law enforcement agency. So far, Williamson County hasn’t adopted one.
“There are lots of other sheriff departments with a form of civil service written in state law,” said Lawrence.
The second option is if a county exceeds 500,000 people, then the sheriff’s office can create its own civil service system. Williamson County fell below that threshold in last decade’s census count, but the county is expected to exceed it in the 2020 Census.
“As soon as the 2020 Census comes out, we will be making a push to do so,” said Lawrence.