Canchola, who suffers from osteoporosis, claims her supervisor, Edith Collins, “pushed me from behind on my right shoulder blade and knocked me to the side. She grabbed the calendar out of my hand and handed it to Sheryl Zimmerman,” a co-worker.
The county employee says “she hollered out, Mrs. Collins! Why did you do that.”
Collins allegedly said, “Oh, sorry,” turned and went back to her office without a word, according to Canchola. As Canchola sat crying at her desk, Zimmerman comforted her by patting Canchola’s shoulder.
In anguish, Canchola called the county treasurer, who oversees administration.
“I told the treasurer, Louise (Aduddell) that I may have to retire and I told her what happened,” Canchola said. “She said, ‘that’s not right.’”
Zimmerman, the only witness in the room, told Officer Bill Schaeffer that her back was turned toward Canchola and Collins but saw the incident “out of the corner of her left eye,” according to Schaeffer’s report.
“She observed Collins push Canchola to the left, take the calendar out of Canchola’s hands and give the calendar to Zimmerman,” said Schaeffer’s report.
“Zimmerman stated that if the same incident had happened to her, she would have been offended by what had happened and that Zimmerman felt that what Collins did to Canchola was inappropriate due to the employer/employee relationship,” according to Schaeffer’s report.
Collins was also questioned by the officer.
“I got up from my desk, went over to Mrs. Canchola and twisted her by her shoulders to her right so I could get by,” Collins told Schaeffer. “I gently laid my hands on each shoulder and gently twisted her one-quarter turn to the right so that I could pass by. I took the transportation calendar from Mrs. Canchola and handed it to Sheryl, who needed the transportation calendar as she was talking to someone on the telephone and Sheryl needed the information.”
Canchola says that Collins did not “pass by” or have a need to touch her, as her supervisor alleges.
“I was not in her way because I wasn’t in the doorway and she didn’t go past me at all,” Canchola said. “She went back in her office.”
Canchola says scheduling drivers and annotating the calendar is a routine part of her job, something she does every day.
Prior to the incident, Zimmerman questioned Canchola about the availability of a certain driver and Canchola was getting the information for her.
“I was looking at the schedule calendar to answer Sheryl’s question,” Canchola said.
Despite hurt feelings and back pain, Canchola said it was not her intention to file charges or involve the police.
“I need my job and I’m embarrassed,” she said.
Her daughter, Alice DeLeon, called the authorities after talking with her family and seeing her mother suffer.
“I’m angry,” DeLeon said. “All of us (Canchola’s children) are angry. Mrs. Collins did not have the right to put her hands on our mother. Mrs. Collins knows Mother has osteoporosis and has had two back surgeries for fractured bones in her back. Her bones are very fragile.”
Canchola says she woke up in the middle of the night with pain shooting across her back. Her doctor, who did not find a fracture, prescribed pain and anxiety medication plus breathing treatments, and ordered her to stay home until the following week.
County Judge Rene Mascorro, Collin’s supervisor, said he called a meeting with the Elderly Services supervisor, with the county treasurer present.
Mascorro says Collins will not lose her job over the incident.
“Whatever action was taken is not public record,” Mascorro said. “To discuss personnel matters would violate Mrs. Collins’ rights.”
Tuesday afternoon Collins simply said, “The issue has been settled and that’s all there is to it.”
Canchola was released to return to work on Aug. 15. The atmosphere is cold, she says.
DeLeon insists the county should do more to protect her mother.
“My mother’s been taking verbal abuse for a long time but this is the first time anyone has laid hands on her,” DeLeon said. “Mrs. Collins has no business working with elderly people.”
Refugio Police Chief Andy Lopez Jr. said the investigating officer consulted the city attorney on the potential Class C misdemeanor assault charge.
“Based on our findings, the prosecutor did not feel the case merited a criminal offense,” Lopez said.
Canchola says her back pain is better now but her feelings remain hurt. She fears her job may be in jeopardy.
“What I’d like to know is why she pushed me like that,” Canchola said.