SAN ANTONIO (CN) – A warrants clerk claims Bexar County harassed, suspended and fired him to retaliate for his truthful reports of official corruption. Michael DeMarquis claims Bexar County law enforcement officers stole money to buy tools and cars, abused and sexually propositioned juvenile prisoners, denied arrestees’ rights to legal counsel and extorted money from them, among other things.
DeMarquis claims that when he revealed the “criminal fraud and misappropriation of funds” and other abuses to superiors in his own department, the allegations were never properly investigated.
In his complaint in Bexar County Court, DeMarquis says he began working at the Bexar County Constable Precinct 2 in August 2009. He says he soon “discovered that several officers and members of his chain of command were engaged in illegal activities, including criminal fraud and misappropriation of funds.”
Among the allegations in his terse, 5-page complaint:
DeMarquis claims Sgt. Don Rogers “verbally and physically assaulted a handcuffed pregnant juvenile female prisoner while she was in custody;”
He claims that another officer, Wayne Dennis, “sexually propositioned prisoners including juvenile female prisoners;”
He claims Capt. Leon Swonke told him and other officers to deny prisoners’ rights to legal counsel and to threaten them with jail time “if they attempted to plead not guilty rather than pay on their traffic fines;”
He claims that Swonke “used coercive tactics to extort money from people with warrants;”
He claims that Chief Raymond Ford used the department’s money “to purchase equipment for personal use such as power tools, air compressors, power washers,” and other items;
He claims that Chief Ford and Capt. Jerry Reiff bought, gassed up and insured four “new Chevy Tahoes” for their personal use, on the county’s tab;
He claims Capt. Reiff “imposed an illegal quota for the traffic officers under threat of disciplinary action to write a minimum of 20 traffic citations a day,” and “knowingly and intentionally falsified a report to the District Attorney’s Office in attempt to implicate DeMarquis in a prisoner abuse allegation.”
DeMarquis claims that another member of the department, Constable Val Flores, offered him a promotion in exchange for money.
And he says he discovered and reported that “several thousand rounds of police ammunition was missing from the armory.”
DeMarquis claims that Sgt. Jesse Garcia stole his 2004 Ford Ranger and then “used his badge of officer as a peace officer and supervisor to coerce DeMarquis not to file charges.”
Capt. Swonke also threatened DeMarquis to get him to drop the complaints against Garcia, according to the complaint.
DeMarquis says that he “reported the illegal activities to the appropriate authorities within the department,” but soon realized that “the reporting would not be investigated internally.”
So he reported the abuses to the Bexar County’s District Attorney’s Office, Auditor’s Office and Human Resources, and to the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Rangers Office, he says.
After blowing the whistle, DeMarquis says he was verbally harassed, “sent alone to dangerous locations to serve papers without proper supervision and backup; accused of violating county policies; accused of prisoner rights violations; subjected to after hour ‘training’ by captain Swonke,” and was humiliated, unfairly disciplined and demoted.
The department also blocked him from filing a workman’s compensation claim for a work-related injury, revoked his police credentials, killed his vacation, comp time and sick leave accruals, and fabricated “government forms to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education to give DeMarquis a less than honorable discharge,” he says.
DeMarquis accuses Bexar County of retaliation under the Texas Whistleblower Act. None of the officers named in the complaint are listed as defendants, nor is their precise job title mentioned, i.e., whether they are Sheriff’s officers or some other designation. The complaint states only that they are or were in DeMarquis’ “chain of command.”
DeMarquis’ lead counsel is Erik Krudop with Kocurek & Krudop.