Dallas County settles lawsuit with deputies

Posted on 20 Sep 2007 at 6:52pm
By David Webb Staff Reporter

Three deputy constables who lost their jobs when former gay Precinct 5 Constable Mike Dupree first took office after the 2000 elections have settled a six-year-old lawsuit with Dallas County.

The three former deputy constables will share a $550,000 settlement from which lawyer’s fees must also be paid. One of the deputy constables, Jim Gilliand, was also given his job back. He started work on Sept. 10.

The settlement agreement also requires Dallas County to issue an official apology to the deputy constables. That has yet to be drafted and announced.

Gilliand, who is not gay but marched in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade last weekend along with new Precinct 5 Constable Jaime Cortes and several other deputies, said in an e-mail that the most important part of the settlement for him was getting his job back.

“Of course, the monetary amount was anemic,” said Gilliand, who describes himself as gay friendly. “My damages far exceed the amount paid. The job reinstatement means more than anything else.”

The Dallas County Commissioners Court approved the financial settlement two weeks ago, and it approved the temporary addition of one deputy position to the Precinct 5 office on Tuesday, Sept. 18, making it retroactive to Gilliand’s start date a week earlier, according to court administrator Allen Clemson. The temporary slot was approved to provide Gilliand with employment until there is a vacancy in the office, he said.

“We think we can put it all behind us, and we can make some progress now,” Clemson said.

Clemson said the apology would be released later.

“We’re still trying to hammer that out,” Clemson said. “We’re trying to do one that is satisfying to the plaintiffs and at the same time fair to the county.”

Dupree resigned in June as part of a settlement agreement with Dallas County and the Texas Attorney General’s office to avoid a trial to remove him from office on allegations of official misconduct and incompetence.

He pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge of official abuse of authority, gave up his peace officer’s license and agreed to abstain from running for public office again. He is on one year’s probation and working in construction for homeowners.

Gilliand and the two other deputy constables lost their jobs when Dupree took office because he refused to swear them in, reportedly because of concerns about their allegiance to the previous administration.

Clemson said county officials thought at the time the constable’s actions were within the guidelines of acceptable practices for a newly elected constable.

A Dallas County jury ruled in November 2002 that the county had erred and awarded a $1.5 million judgment to the deputy constables. An appellate court upheld the decision, and the Texas Supreme Court returned the case to district court for a new trial, which was avoided by the parties reaching the settlement.

The two other plaintiffs, Sonia Avina and Stanley Gaines, were not given their jobs back because Avina said she did not want it, and Gaines died in 2001. Gaines’ heirs will receive his part of the settlement.

Gilliand, who was a vocal critic of Dupree’s for six years, said he is thankful to have survived unemployment, and that he was pleased to be marching in the Pride parade. Constable Cortes reached out to the LGBT community shortly after the Commissioners Court appointed him to replace Dupree.

“We were all impressed with the swell of applause for our constable,” Gilliand said.

E-mail webb@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 21, 2007

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