Anytime someone is applying for a job it’s only natural that they would want to highlight the positive and omit negative. But it’s also imperative in a job interview that when asked about a character flaw or previous mistake that the person shows they’ve corrected that flaw and/or learned from that mistake to prove that it’s no longer an issue so the flaw or mistake doesn’t happen again.
In today’s AusChron article on Precinct 1 Constable candidate Robert Chody, The Millionaire Who Would Be Constable, we learn that APD settled a policy brutality lawsuit – involving himself and another officer, Jerry Sullivan – shortly after winning the lottery and just before leaving the Austin Police Department.
As it happens, the 2001 lottery win proved doubly lucky for Chody. When he won the money, then-APD Officer Chody was the principal defendant in a police-brutality lawsuit, with claims that appeared of considerable merit. According to court documents, Chody stood accused of beating a much smaller 15-year-old black teenager in East Austin, smashing the youth’s face on the hood of a patrol car, putting him in a “full nelson” (a forceful, immobilizing wrestling hold that places pressure on the neck), triggering a seizure in the terrified youth and bruising his ribs â€“ and finally arresting, without apparent probable cause, Marcus Dewayne Frank, then an exemplary student at Johnston High School.
But a month after Chody and his family got their lottery winnings, the lawsuit â€“ originally scheduled for trial on April 2, 2001 â€“ was quietly settled. Despite Chody’s sudden wealth, the lottery winnings apparently had no direct affect on the settlement, which was paid by the city of Austin â€“ as is customary for lawsuits arising from an officer acting in his official capacity. In stories about the lottery jackpot, local reporters were quick to mention the two commendations in Chody’s file â€“ but the feel-good stories didn’t mention the brutality lawsuit against him. The lawsuit was settled on April 25, and Chody resigned from APD in June, leaving, says his website, with the department’s “blessings.”
As his campaign proceeds, Chody is likely to face additional questions about the lawsuit and about his actions on Aug. 30, 1998. According to the court record, as described in the March 2001 order issued by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, Chody would have had a hard time explaining his actions at trial. In denying the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, Sparks’ sharply worded order suggests that the plaintiffs were amply justified in suing â€“ a result that likely prompted the city’s quick settlement of the case.
“Indeed Chody admits there was a question in his mind, and in the mind of his supervisor, as to whether there was probable cause to arrest Frank,” the order states. After Sparks’ decision, the parties settled, with the city paying about $30,000 to Perkins and Frank. According to the city attorney for the defendants, Frederick Hawkins, after internal discussions with former Chief Stan Knee and others, the city decided that a trial would be “somewhat burdensome” and wanted to “get this thing behind Chody.”
They have a link to the judges order here [.PDF]. From APD’s actions, settling this lawsuit as they did, it’s pretty clear that they believed Chody and Sullivan wouldn’t have fared well at a trial. Not putting this on his resume is not the issue. What is the issue is how he responds to this issue coming to light.
There are a couple of troubling parts to this story. As the AusChron story points out, on his web site/resume Chody drops the GOP religious code word “calling” in his bio:
The website paints a warm and fuzzy portrait of the would-be cowboy candidate. Grinning from beneath the rim of his 10-gallon hat is a religious family man, generous donor, and police officer who loves working with the youth of his community. He touts his service as a Katrina volunteer as well, declares not once but four times that police work is his true “calling,” and adds that serving as reserve deputy constable under Precinct 2 Constable Dale Vannoy is his post-APD “newfound calling.”
Recognizing a calling to a more humble lifestyle after winning the mammon “jackpot” is admirable. But what seems to be lacking, so far, in all of this is any admission of making a mistake and atonement for that mistake. Which is pretty big part of a calling like the one he mentions.
The other disturbing part is that none of the law enforcement groups that have endorsed his campaign, so far, knew anything about the brutality lawsuit or seemed to care about it when it was brought to their attention.
Needless to say, there’s no mention of the lawsuit on Chody’s campaign website. But a long list of endorsements includes the political action committee of the Austin Police Association and the WilCo Sheriffs Association. APA PAC President Wuthipong Tantaksinanukij said he had not heard of the Chody lawsuit but that the APA PAC endorsement would stand. “I know Chody personally â€“ this does not change my opinion of him,” Tantaksinanukij said. The WilCo sheriff’s group was also unaware of Chody’s litigation history, but declined to comment.
Chody goes and asks law enforcement groups for their endorsement and doesn’t inform them that he’s got an issue in his past regarding brutality and excessive. But that’s OK, the head of the APA knows him personally. It would seem that his record as a police officer would matter more to getting the APA endorsement than a personal relationship. This is not Mr. Tantaksinanukij’s personal endorsement after all. As for the WilCo sheriff’s group, well, they’ve had it out for Gary Griffin, along with the rest of the WC GOP for a while now. For that reason that endorsement is not surprising, especially when looking at the issues they’ve had.
Police officers do very hard, and often times thankless work. And yes, they some times make mistakes, as we all do. What proves a persons character is what is done after a mistake to atone for it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. EOW would like to hear from Chody regarding that as his campaign progresses. For example does he feel he did anything wrong that August night, and if so did he seek forgiveness from the person he harmed? That’s something his he should have been called him to do regarding this incident.
Again what is key here is how Chody responds. Will he respond by attacking the messenger or will he respond by with “Integrity, Professionalism and Leadership” (stated on his web site), not to mention with the humility of his “calling” to insure voters that this type of thing won’t happen if he’s elected Constable.