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County hire ruffles feathers

Profile image for By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer
By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer

Accusations have erupted between Denton County Commissioner Hugh Coleman and Sheriff William Travis over Coleman’s decision to hire the recently fired jail administrator, Roy Davenport, for a job overseeing inmate work crews.

The hiring, approved this week by commissioners, sparked a scathing e-mail from Travis to human resources director Amy Phillips and commissioners.

“This was a clear clandestine effort to circumvent my authority,” Travis said Wednesday in the e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Travis said in the e-mail that he did not receive prior notice about the hiring, and that it was the Commissioners Court’s responsibility to advise him of its intentions and to discuss the matter.

“I have made every effort in the past to work with you to come up with solutions to issues that have come before us but your actions compel an environment of distrust that we may not recover,” he said. “I must say I am highly offended and disappointed.”

Travis also threatened to withhold Davenport’s jailer certification to make him ineligible to oversee inmates.

“To be frank, I will not hold Mr. Davenport’s license or allow him to pick up, transport or manage inmate activities in the position he now holds with Road & Bridge 1,” he said in the e-mail.

Travis did not respond to a request from the Denton Record-Chronicle for comment about the dispute.

In an e-mailed response to Phillips that was copied to Travis and the other commissioners, Coleman balked at the accusation of clandestine action and said the employment was done in open court with the position properly posted, through proper procedures.

“Frankly, I am appalled that the Sheriff would be openly attempting to black ball from future employment a 20-year-plus county employee,” Coleman wrote. “I fear that his ill-advised comments and present actions will subject the county to future liability and put taxpayer funds at risk due to his irrational malice toward a specific employee.”

Davenport, who was already on the job Thursday, declined to comment.

He was assistant chief deputy overseeing the jail administration when he was abruptly fired last month by Travis, who did not give a reason for the termination.

“I don’t have to have any reason,” Travis said at the time. “I can just fire anyone in my strike positions at any given time as I see fit.”

Davenport, who had worked more than 20 years with the Sheriff’s Office, was making $101,916 as the jail administrator, according to county officials. In the new position, as a Detention I/crew member, he will be making about $36,000.

Travis said in the e-mail to Phillips that he had consented to Davenport remaining on the county rolls after the Feb. 19 termination date so he could make an informed decision about medical coverage and retirement.

In an e-mailed response to Travis, Phillips said her staff processed the personnel action, noting that Davenport was qualified for the job.

She said she discussed it with Travis shortly before the Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday.

“I was careful to check with you about the flexibility you were willing to afford Roy Davenport, so as to avoid circumventing your authority,” she said. “I have done nothing that could be accurately described as clandestine, disingenuous or compelling an environment of distrust.”

Coleman said Davenport is now on the job, and said he did not know why anyone would think that someone who watched over 1,400 inmates in jail could not watch over six.

“I think he is extremely well-qualified and I am surprised he took the job,” Coleman said.

Coleman said that in the event that Travis tries to block Davenport from working, he is looking at other options.

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.