Image: Montgomery Mayor Sara Countryman didn’t look too happy on September 25, 2018, as she presided over a City Council meeting for the purpose of passing a “no confidence” vote to remove Police Chief Jim Napolitano. The City Council tabled the vote, so the final result was just as bad for Countryman as the dozens of citizen comments supporting Chief Napolitano during the meeting.
Montgomery, January 7 – Even before her election as Mayor of the City of Montgomery, Sara Countryman, a lady who has had substantial brushes with law enforcement (please see “The Political Firing of Montgomery Police Chief Napolitano, Part 2 of 3: Who is Mayor Sara Countryman?” The Golden Hammer, January 6, 2018), decided with her close friend City Councilwoman Rebecca Huss that they wanted to get rid of highly-respected and successful Montgomery Police Chief Jim Napolitano soon as Countryman’s May 5 election was over.
Huss, who spends an inordinate amount of time interfering with City of Montgomery operations, had begun setting the groundwork to get rid of Napolitano with her close law enforcement allies Lieutenant Jose Belmares and Officer Tim Bauer ever since Napolitano surprised them by not winning his campaign for Montgomery County Sheriff in the March, 2016, Republican Primary Election. Huss campaigned for Countryman, because, she told a group of City employees, “I want a Mayor I can control.”
According to the seven current and former employees of the City of Montgomery who spoke with this newspaper for this story, Huss and Countryman are all very much about personal power. Montgomery businesslady Marisa Zamarripa gave a television interview on September 25, 2018, in which she explained “It’s a personal vendetta by Countryman and others to get rid of the Chief.” All of the employees, with the exception of former Police Officer James Andrews, requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.
For Huss and Countryman, Napolitano’s popularity with the citizens and business owners in the City of Montgomery and the esteem with which other law enforcement officials hold Napolitano got in the way of their personal and political ambitions. They had to get rid of “the Chief.”
Napolitano enjoyed immense popularity with the police officers inside the Montgomery Police Department as well. Officer Andrews, who is now a Reserve Deputy Constable with Precinct 2 Constable Gene De Forest and works for a private corporate security company, explained, “I have strong respect for Chief Jim Napolitano. He led from the front. He’d show up at a traffic stop or a call for service. He regularly called his officers to see if they needed help from him.” Andrews said, “Chief Napolitano wanted to give his officers everything he could to succeed at their jobs. He wanted to give them the tools and the training to succeed.”
“Chief Napolitano wanted to give his officers everything he could to succeed at their jobs. He wanted to give them the tools and the training to succeed.” – – former Montgomery Police Officer James Andrews.
The Golden Hammer obtained a secret cache of text messages between Huss and Countryman from their telephones in a collection which City of Montgomery employees had compiled.
Countryman and Huss realized they didn’t have the support from a majority of the members of the City Council to get rid of Napolitano as Chief. Instead, they began to apply what they believed was psychological pressure to the Chief. It was all rather childish.
Countryman and Huss texted to each other a series of messages over the late spring and summer of 2018 a small sample of which follow in chronological order:
- “Yep. But applying pressure to Nap in the meantime to answer some questions, good move. Make him answer a bit…”
- Saw will [sic] Metcalf at Kroger. Asked him to come to next city council meeting to say the chief is a schmuck.”
- Did Tim [Bauer, police officer] tell you [Miguel Rosario, a Police Lieutenant and Napolitano ally] is trying to leave? He is a huge barometer – has the most to gain by sticking with nappy because he doesn’t have the experience or credentials to be a big deal with anyone else.” [Note: Rosario left the Montgomery Police Department when it became apparent that the Mayor and the Councillady would force Napolitano out.]
- “…it’s still REALLY interesting. And should be fed back to nappy to make him think he’s being deserted by the only people he trusts.”
- “Jack [Yates, City Administrator] and I have to write up our complaints and present to Chief. THEN Jack can fire and we will pay his contract. John said he would recommend Joe to step in.”
Countryman and Huss strenuously objected to Chief Napolitano’s decision to discipline Officer Tim Bauer for a performance problem. Bauer and Lieutenant Belmares were close political allies of Huss and Countryman and had both come to the Police Department from the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s office. Bauer and Belmares both worked with the Mayor and the City Councilwoman to try to make Napolitano look bad in front of the City Council, as Andrews and several other City employees have confirmed.
By the autumn of 2018, Countryman was in open warfare with Chief Napolitano. At a September 25, 2018, City Council meeting, she placed a “no confidence” vote on the agenda to try to remove Napolitano formally as Police Chief. An enormous crowd of over 100 people from within the City, from outside the City, and from other law enforcement departments such as Precinct 1 Constable Phillip Cash’s office appeared to speak in defense of the Chief. Countryman openly fumed during the meeting, especially after the City Council agreed to table any action on Napolitano for lack of community and Council support for taking any action against the Chief.
During an almost two-hour executive session on September 25, however, the City Council went far beyond mere gathering of information. Mayor Countryman, Councilwoman Huss, and City Manager Yates argued against Napolitano’s continued employment and criticized his treatment of certain city employees who enjoy strong political connections to them, including Police Officer Tim Bauer. Huss had previously lobbied for the firing of Napolitano and his replacement with her ally Bauer.
While Countryman was careful not actually to take a formal vote, the City Council under her leadership did everything but that in the executive session. They debated whether Napolitano should continue as Police Chief. They then sought a “consensus” during which Councilmen Jon Bickford, John Champagne, and T.J. Wilkerson made clear they continued to support Napolitano as Police Chief, while Huss and freshman Councilman Dave McCorquodale (who later resigned to become the Assistant City Administrator under Yates) were against Napolitano. As a result, Countryman, Huss, and Yates were unable to get the City Council to take specific action during the executive session or in the open session thereafter.
During all-day meetings prior to the 6 p.m. City Council meeting on September 25, Huss, Countryman, and Yates attempted to fashion some mechanism to force Napolitano out of office, as several city employees observed during their meetings. After they failed in the September 25 executive session to achieve their goal to get rid of the Police Chief and replace him with someone whom they liked politically, the Mayor, City Councilwoman, and City Administrator threw down the gauntlet to let Napolitano know they’d l0dge complaint after complaint about him until Napolitano relented his employment with the City.
At that point, as some of the text messages between Huss and Countryman reveal, Countryman, Huss, and City Administrator Yates went into full intimidation mode, which didn’t want very well with an experienced law enforcement officer like Napolitano who enjoyed an immensely successful career with the United States Secret Service among other federal, state, and local agencies. A few local officials weren’t very effective playing head games with the Chief.
As a result in early October, 2018, Countryman and Yates began to file internal affairs complaints against Napolitano with the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office. The District Attorney, Brett Ligon, cleared Napolitano of each and every allegation. Nevertheless, Countryman, Huss, and Yates made clear that they would continue to file internal affairs charges against the Chief, unless he agreed to leave “voluntarily.”
Countryman, Huss, and Yates made it clear to Napolitano that they would register complaints against him constantly until he agreed to leave the City as Police Chief, as four high-level and mid-level city employees and one member of the City Council have confirmed on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
A police officer on the City of Montgomery Police force told The Golden Hammer, “It is such a sad day in the city of Montgomery to lose such a great leader as Jim Napolitano. I am just so tired of how the small town politics are still occurring. The back stabbing needs to stop. Jim Napolitano is the best Chief the city has ever had.”
Under the terms of the separation, the City agreed to pay Napolitano his full salary as Police Chief through February 1, 2019, at which time his retirement with the City will vest. The City and Napolitano have executed mutual releases and agreed not to disparage each other. The City has also agreed, through its attorney Larry Foerster, to provide Napolitano with a favorable recommendation as he searches for new employment. Between now and February 1, Napolitano is official under “administrative leave with full pay.”
Both Napolitano and his wife Angie Napolitano declined to speak with The Golden Hammer, except Chief Napolitano said, “I was completely honored to work at the City of Montgomery as their Chief of Police for the five years I was there. I did everything in my power for better salaries, training, and morale, while I was there. Thanks to everyone.”
The bitter political wrath of Countryman and Huss extended to a professional colleague of the Chief as well, Officer James Andrews. Andrews began working for the Montgomery Police Department in early December, 2016. He had previously worked as a Police Officer for the Conroe ISD and the City of Panorama.
Andrews didn’t know Napolitano until after he began working for the City’s police force. He quickly developed a “huge respect for him,” Andrews told The Golden Hammer. “Chief Napolitano had counterassault team experience and I had SWAT experience. We had very similar views about how to make our community safer and worked on how to prepare ‘soft targets’ like schools to make them safer inside the City of Montgomery.”
Huss, Countryman, and Yates began to make it clear to Andrews that they didn’t like him after they had forced Napolitano out as Chief. “They began to nitpick me administratively to make it difficult for me to do my job,” Andrews explained. That nitpicking actually had begun prior to Napolitano’s formal departure as Chief. “Mayor Countryman and Adminstrator Yates had accused me of racism during one traffic stop. It turned out, however, that investigators determined I handled the situation entirely appropriately.
After it became clear that Countryman and Yates were out to force Andrews to leave the Police Department, he filed a formal complaint against Yates for creating a “hostile work environment.” Unfortunately, in the City of Montgomery, the City Secretary is also the Human Resources Manager and she reports to Yates. Not surprisingly, Andrews’ complaint didn’t go very far.
Countryman and Yates, however began to utilize the same methods they had tried with Chief Napolitano to force Andrews to resign. They began filing complaints against Andrews with the District Attorney’s Office and with the Texas Rangers. Those law enforcement authorities ultimately cleared Andrews of any alleged wrongdoing.
Andrews didn’t want to remain at the Police Department with Countryman and Huss acting as though they ran it. Therefore, he resigned on October 25, 2018, but did qualify for unemployment compensation as a result of the hostile work environment which essentially forced him to leave.
Andrews explained, “I was very disappointed to leave the City of Montgomery Police Department. I had huge respect for Chief Jim Napolitano and for the people of the City and those who visited them.”
“Chief Jim Napolitano was one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever worked for,” Andrews said. “Huss despised the Chief, because she was close with Belmares. Belmares wanted the Chief’s job. They worked to bring in Countryman to help them accomplish their goals.”
Sadly, in their focused quest for political power, Mayor Sara Countryman and Councilwoman Rebecca Huss chased away an outstanding Police Chief Jim Napolitano and at least two other superb police officers, James Andrews and Miguel Rosario.