Texas Sheriff Accused of Corruption Cover-up

     UVALDE, Texas (CN) – A Texas sheriff fired an investigator for giving the FBI his findings on a corrupt officer the sheriff was protecting, the fired sergeant claims in Federal Court.
     Armando M. Garcia claims Uvalde County Sheriff Charles Mendeke ordered him to stop investigating a deputy accused of “snorting cocaine with gang members inside the restroom of a local bar in Uvalde” – an order Garcia says he refused to follow.
     He says Mendeke fired him less than 60 days after he handed over his investigation to the district attorney and FBI.
     He sued the sheriff and Uvalde County in Del Rio Federal Court Monday.
     Uvalde County, pop. 26,400, is in southwest Texas, about 100 miles west of San Antonio.
     Mendeke has been Uvalde County sheriff since January 2009. Dorflinger has been a sworn deputy since December 2012.
     Garcia claims he reported the deputy’s alleged cocaine use to the FBI and to Mendeke after receiving a tip from a citizen. The citizen identified the sheriff’s deputy as Max Dorflinger, according to Garcia’s lawsuit.
     “Sheriff Mendeke directed Mr. Garcia not to look into the matter further and to drop it,” the complaint states.
     Garcia says a chief deputy later came into his office with a message from the sheriff: that he should not investigate Dorflinger if he “cared about his job with the sheriff’s department.”
     But throughout 2014 and early 2015, Garcia says, he continued to pass along information of Dorflinger’s drug use and evidence-planting to the FBI. He says the turning point came when he saw Dorflinger mishandle evidence in February.
     “Specifically, Mr. Garcia saw Deputy Dorflinger in possession of an unsealed and unlabeled evidence bag containing methamphetamines. Mr. Garcia instructed Deputy Dorflinger to secure and process the evidence as soon as he returned from the burglary call. Later, according to video surveillance, Deputy Dorflinger stole drug evidence from the sheriff’s department evidence room,” the complaint states.
     Garcia says he gave the tape to the district attorney’s office, as his “internal reporting of these violations was not resulting in any action.” That led to Mendeke going on a tirade during a meeting that Garcia recorded, the fired sergeant says.
     “During this meeting, Sheriff Mendeke yells at Mr. Garcia that ‘You went behind my back!’ Sheriff Mendeke also stated, referring to the evidence mishandling allegations, that ‘[Mr. Garcia] didn’t need to put all of that in there’ and calls it ‘shit.’
     “Then Sheriff Mendeke stated, ‘There is a certain group of deputies here that I protect’ and ‘you [Mr. Garcia] belong to me.'” (Brackets in complaint.)
     The complaint continues: “Sheriff Mendeke stated that Mr. Garcia was alienating himself from Sheriff Mendeke’s protection. Additionally, Sheriff Mendeke discussed his view of evidence handling procedures and the way he used to do it, including that he ‘used to have shit for months in his trunk.'”
     Just over a month after that meeting, Garcia says, his locked desk was forced open and a camera he’d set up to monitor the desk was turned to face the wall. He was fired the next day.
     Sheriff Mendeke did not respond to a request for comment.
     Garcia says that Dorflinger still works for the sheriff “because Sheriff Mendeke has a policy and practice of protecting and helping Deputy Dorflinger.”
     “Here, that sheriff’s department policy resulted in terminating Mr. Garcia for going outside of the department and reporting violations of law to the D.A. and the F.B.I.,” the complaint states.
     Garcia seeks back pay, front pay and damages for First Amendment violations, violations of the Texas Whistleblower Act and emotional distress.
     He is represented by Colin Walsh and Robert J. Wiley of Austin.

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