The video recording was released by DPS 25 days after The Karnes Countywide sent the open records request.
The brief comment exchanged between the chief deputy and a DPS state trooper triggered a formal misconduct complaint submitted on July 16 by a law firm representing Premier Vacuum Service and Barbara Shaw, in her individual capacity.
The complaint claimed that Swize attempted to lobby State Trooper Steve Bailey to falsify his accident report to show the vehicle owned by Premier was at fault.
Bailey told The Karnes Countywide that the comment, which he didn’t consider significant enough to bring to the attention of his supervisor, or anyone else, did not affect the outcome of his investigation which showed the driver of the Premier truck was not at fault in the accident.
The Karnes Countywide reached out to Premier Vice-President Kyle Shaw to ask how he first became aware that the comment had been made.
“Numerous false complaints through others and questions from the insurance led to the revealing of the audio tape with comments by Swize; self-inflicted,” Shaw said.
A copy of the open records request for the video recording that was sent by Kyle Shaw and addressed to the Karnes County DPS office was obtained by The Karnes Countywide. The request was dated July 10.
After being placed on paid administrative leave July 17, pending the outcome of an internal investigation, Swize resigned from his position on July 26.
The Karnes Countywide has reached out to Swize who has declined to comment about the complaint.
The exchange between the officers happens at a point about 29 minutes into the DPS dashcam recording, which is about 79 minutes long. It reveals what was specifically said by Swize when talking to Bailey.
Below is a transcript of the exchange. The video can be viewed online at mySouTex.com:
Bailey: Chief, do me a favor, please?
Swize: Yes, sir.
Swize: It’s that truck’s fault. Because it belongs to the county judge. I know it’s their fault. F*** ‘em any way you can, unethically, go ahead.
Bailey: Can I get somebody with a camera to start snapping a bunch of pictures? The secretary still has mine.
Swize: (to another officer) You, start snapping pictures...
Bailey: Thank you.
The comment has been described by Maurice Yarter as remark that was made “in jest” during the July 31 meeting of Commissioners Court. Yarter said County Judge Barbara Shaw was using the comment to suit her own political agenda.
Bailey, during an interview with The Countywide, said he was focused on his work, and didn’t even take time to consider whether or not the remark was a joke.
A copy of the Karnes County Sheriff’s Office investigative report, which was recently obtained by The Karnes Countywide shows that Sergeant Mike Cantu, who was assigned to investigate the complaint, reached several conclusions.
The report concludes that Swize showed conduct unbecoming on an officer, especially the chief deputy. It went on to say that Swize is unfit for duty by allowing his personal feeling toward Judge Barbara Shaw to impact his daily duties as a commissioned chief deputy and his actions brought discredit to the sheriff’s office. It went on to say that Swize is a hazard to Judge Barbara Shaw as well as the drivers and employees at Premier if he is permitted to remain on the job.
“I find the complaint against Russell Swize as a valid sustained complaint and will forward my findings to Sheriff Dwayne Villanueva,” Cantu wrote in the undated report which noted the investigation began on July 16.
Whether or not Cantu interviewed Bailey or Swize as part of his investigation is unclear, as no such interviews are mentioned in the report.
The report does reveal that Swize admitted that making the comment was a mistake, and Swize offered to apologize to Judge Barbara Shaw.
Judge Shaw declined Swize’s offer to meet with her and apologize.
“No, I won’t go,” Shaw said, as shown in the report. “He threatened me and the employees of Premier. I’m scared of what he may do.”
According to information in the report, Swize told Cantu that he put in writing an offer to accept a five-day suspension without pay, as a disciplinary measure for the infraction.
The document dated July 16, which was also recently obtained by The Countywide, also offered an apology to Sheriff Villanueva.
“I am writing you this letter to state that I wholeheartedly apologize to you and your department for the unprofessional comment that was made by myself at the scene of an accident on June 3, 2013 in Falls City, Texas,” the letter states. “I meant no harm to anyone by the statement and would never mean harm. It was a statement that I regret and apologize to you for.”