Galveston County Judge Mark Henry sure knows how to spice up dull legal dispute over the hiring and firing of court staff. Mix in some backroom sniping, a bit of rumor-mongering, and just a hint of public sex and you've got the awkward mess that's now before the state's First Court of Appeals.
At issue in the case that's pitted Henry and Galveston County commissioners against local district court judges is Henry's July firing of Bonita "Bonnie" Quiroga as director of the county's Justice Administration Department, a title she'd held for more than a decade. The local judges, already peeved with commissioners for supposedly meddling with their budget, were furious about the firing. In an order blocking Quiroga's termination in September, Administrative Judge Lonnie Cox wrote, "The authority to appoint and terminate court personnel lies with the courts, not the county judge nor the commissioners court."
So the county appealed to the First Court last month, asking that Cox's order barring commissioners from firing or replacing Quiroga be overturned. And late last month Henry filed an affidavit in the case that includes a number of email exchanges that, as far as Henry's concerned, prove Quiroga reported to commissioners court and not local judges. (H/T to local attorney Greg Enos, who first noted the emails in his awesomely-titled newsletter "The Mongoose" earlier this month.) "The tone and content of Ms. Quiroga's communications to me about the judges are wholly inconsistent with a supervisory relationship between them," Henry wrote in the affidavit.
That's quite an understatement. Notwithstanding that Quiroga regularly wrote to Henry with all the tact and professionalism of a tween slumber party gossip circle, the emails Henry filed in court show that, at the very least, Quiroga had quite the strained, unhealthy relationship with the very judges who are now fighting to save her job.More »