A top Richland Hills official initially failed to release a document that cleared the former police chief in a gender discrimination complaint when questioned about the case by the Star-Telegram.
City manager Eric Strong also failed to mention in an interview that he found claims against former chief Barbara Childress were unsubstantiated.
Strong said that “it was a mistake” not to include the letter in his response to an open records request from the Star-Telegram.
“I don’t know why it wasn’t included, but it was not intentional on our part,” he said.
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Childress, who was Tarrant County’s first female police chief, was fired March 29 after working for the city for 48 years. Childress was fired because she failed to obey orders not to discuss the confidential investigation regarding the gender discrimination complaints filed by a male police officer who is still on the force, according to the documents.
Childress, 69, has filed an age discrimination complaint against Richland Hills, alleging that she was asked to retire or resign because it appeared that the city manager wanted someone younger.
The Star-Telegram submitted an open records request to Richland Hills on July 13 asking for complaints and disciplinary actions against Childress from October 2017 through March.
Strong released the documents detailing the allegations, but did not include the findings, which cleared the former chief.
“It appears that the city manager has hidden the truth, which only re-enforces our position that chief Childress’ termination was due to illegal age discrimination,” said Childress’ attorney, Jason Smith.
Childress was accused of hiring and promoting women for positions of captain and passing over qualified male candidates. The complaint also accused her of transferring a male detective.
However, Strong found that the allegations of bias regarding the two captain positions were unsustained and that the allegation concerning the male detective was unsubstantiated. Strong wrote that Childress discussed the positions with multiple male candidates.
But she was also accused of obstructing the investigation by talking to others about the complaint despite an order not to discuss the matter, according to the documents.
“You repeatedly violated multiple direct orders to not discuss a confidential and private matter,” Strong wrote in a memo to Childress. “This behavior obstructed the investigation, potentially contaminating the results. A department head, especially a Chief of Police, has to be able to keep confidential matters private. An inability and/or unwillingness to do so destroys much needed credibility and trust.”
In her response to Strong, Childress wrote that she did not obstruct the investigation and that she was repeatedly told that the complaint was unfounded and that she did nothing wrong.
Sgt. Joseph Batchelder filed a complaint against Childress in November 2017 alleging that she engaged in gender bias by filling two open captain’s positions with women. Batchelder wrote in his complain that he had wanted to apply for one of the positions.
Instead, Childress promoted a female sergeant and hired Kim Sylvester from Allen to fill the other position. Sylvester was recently named as police chief in Richland Hills.
“Childress called me in to her office to tell me she was hiring from outside to fill the Operations Captain position, she informed me she was doing so because she did not think anyone in the department was quite qualified to fill the position,” Batchelder wrote.