Updated 9:30 a.m. Nov. 27: San Antonio Express-News reported yesterday that Chief of Police John E. Coleman filed an employment whistle-blower lawsuit against Texas A&M-San Antonio and The Texas A&M System. Read more
According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website, a federal agency violates the Whistleblower Protection Act if it takes or fails to take (or threatens to take or fail to take) a personnel action with respect to any employee or applicant because of any disclosure of information by the employee or applicant that he or she reasonably believes evidences a violation of a law, rule or regulation.
This story was originally published Sept. 18.
By Laura de Leon and Melody Mendoza
In the last month, the University’s chief of police has been put on leave and another leading officer resigned from his position.
John E. Coleman, chief of university police department and associate vice president for campus safety and security, said this week that the University administration has placed him on administrative leave.
“I made complaints and because of those complaints I was sent home,” Coleman said.
Reached by phone Monday morning, Coleman said he was not authorized to provide the details of his complaints because the University is investigating the situation but that he was put on leave Aug. 13.
Likewise, University administrators said they were not able to comment on personnel matters. The nature of Coleman’s complaint remains unclear. No details were released by the University concerning investigations related to Coleman or UPD.
The Texas A&M System’s office of general counsel did not provide a description of the system’s policy on administrative leave by publication.
Coleman said he filed a federal complaint on July 30 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against President Maria Hernandez Ferrier “and other names of senior administrators of the University” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
He said the University took adverse action against him. He is accusing Ferrier and unnamed persons of discrimination and retaliation and other law violations.
The EEOC San Antonio Field Office confirmed Tuesday that Coleman was “in the system” and that he had filed a complaint but would not provide further details.
Then, on Sept. 4 former UPD Lt. Daniel Barrera said he resigned because he didn’t like what he described as the unfair treatment Coleman received from University administrators.
University ‘unable to comment’
The Mesquite contacted Communications Specialist Jillian Reddish and human resources Director Karen Gilbert to confirm Coleman’s leave and discuss his status. Both staff members said they were not able to comment on personnel matters.
Gilbert said Rick Trefzer, assistant vice president of finance and administration, is overseeing UPD on the administration side.
This summer, administrative changes across the University were made in response to the University’s growth and to accommodate for recent budget cuts as reported in The Mesquite Aug. 30.
As part of those changes, Coleman was moved from a position directly below the office of the president to the office of finance and administration led by Kenneth Mitts, chief financial officer. The finance and administration department encompasses payroll, accounting, procurement, compliance, facilities, human resources, information technology and UPD.
Mitts released a statement from the University on Sept. 18 in regards to Coleman’s leave: “It is the policy of Texas A&M University-San Antonio not to comment on personnel matters. Regarding administrative leave procedures, the University handles this on a case-by-case basis, and consults with the Texas A&M University System’s Office of General Counsel as needed.”
The Mesquite also approached and contacted UPD officers for information. Officers confirmed Coleman was on leave but would not comment on the issue.
UPD lieutenant resigns in protest
Barrera, former lieutenant who was second in command under Coleman, said he could only respond with his rationale for resigning earlier this month and did not comment on Coleman’s complaints.
Barrera said he made the decision to resign mostly because of what he described as unfair treatment of Coleman.
“I saw the direction that the administration was taking,” he said. “And not necessarily so much that, but it was the treatment; that they were hostile with and they were trying to intimidate Chief Coleman. And that is basically the reason why I left.”
Barrera did not mention any other possible reasons for his resignation. As with Coleman, Reddish said the University would not comment on the lieutenant’s employment status.
Barrera said he began his employment with the University in October 2007 as a corporal. A year later, he said he was promoted to sergeant and later promoted to lieutenant.
Under Coleman’s direction, Barrera said UPD was able to accomplish many things, like implementing a security camera system and providing security to Main and Brooks campuses.
According to the University website, Coleman began employment with the University in 2010. His experience in higher education involved serving on the academic side as an assistant professor and program coordinator of criminal justice (policing specialist) at Western Texas College, Hardin-Simmons University and most recently at the University of North Texas. His teaching experience includes both undergraduate and graduate courses in criminal justice, political science and public administration.
Barrera alluded to frustration he had while employed at A&M-San Antonio.
He said, “It seemed like everything we had that we were striving for, we had to battle for it.”
Although Barrera said there was resistance from administration to implement programs and equipment like the camera system, UPD was able to, “procure equipment necessary for us to be able to keep the institution as the faculty, staff and more importantly the students; to keep them safe.”
He said the University did not even consider the good things Coleman has accomplished.
“He was the one pushing all of our needs and all of our plans,” Barrera said of Coleman. “I could not work under those conditions.”
Barrera described the conditions of UPD’s recent hierarchal move under finance and administration as “adverse working conditions.”
While Coleman and the University were not able to comment, Coleman said there were no issues concerning UPD to cause such a dramatic issue.
“UPD was doing an exceptional job for the University,” Coleman said, adding that they were in the top division of the University.
“As long as the truth is told, that is all that matters,” Coleman said.
Mikhaila Dansby contributed to this report.