CITY OF HOUSTON
INTER OFFICE CORRESPONDENCE
TO: Charles A. McClelland, Jr. FROM: R. D. Holtsclaw, Police Officer
Chief of Police Westside Division
VIA: M. Mikeska, Sergeant DATE: December 6, 2010
SUBJECT: Questions regarding possible
P. E. Ryza, Lieutenant police corruption
M. E. Lentschke, Captain
J. H. Chen, Assistant Chief
West Patrol Command
K. A. Munden, Executive Asst. Chief
I, Senior Police Officer Rickey D. Holtsclaw, Employee# 068560, am currently assigned to the South Patrol Command, Westside Division, Shift I.
On December 1, 2010, 0900 hours, I was subpoenaed to testify in the arbitration hearing of City of Houston v. Mayco Ayala. Houston Police Officer Mayco Ayala is a Marine Corps war veteran, a combat hero, who developed a drinking problem as he self-medicated the pain of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). Apparently, Officer Ayala was involved in multiple firefights with insurgents in the Middle East while serving in the United States Marine Corps. Officer Ayala’s consumption of alcohol, which he used to self-medicate for PTSD, resulted in a couple of off-duty mishaps. Instead of intervening and assisting this Officer with his drinking problem, the City of Houston decided to follow its usual protocol and simply get rid of the employee…a war hero tossed out like a piece of trash.
What inspired me to initiate a letter relevant to this incident is the fact that I was amazed at how efficiently and effectively the City of Houston managed to notify me that my presence at the arbitration hearing of Mayco Ayala was required. Following, is an interesting factual account of corruption, harassment and administrative cover-up within our Police Department. Please be patient and I will segue into the above referenced subpoena scenario. A good portion of what I have to say is buried deep within IAD files and available for your reading; therefore, in order to arrive at my intended point, I will provide a brief synopsis or overview for your benefit.
After having served almost twenty years in the Air Support Division as of 2009, I watched as Chief King endeavored to totally revamp the Helicopter Unit. Numerous complaints of Unit ineffectiveness had surfaced and in response Chief King decided that she would reorganize the Helicopter Unit and restore it to divisional status. This, of course, meant that the Helicopter Unit would require renaming and it was eventually assigned the title, “Air Support Division.” A “new” captain would be assigned to run the Division which, in its Unit status, was headed-up by a lieutenant. So the Air Support Division was blessed with the arrival of Captain Runyan and Lieutenant Waltmon.
Not long after their arrival, while I was on a routine patrol flight, I was in pursuit of multiple aggravated robbery suspects in West Houston/Harris County when my police helicopter suffered two simultaneous compressor stalls. I initiated an emergency landing into a vacant lot within a residential neighborhood. By the grace of my Lord, there was no damage to the aircraft or injury to flight personnel. Unfortunately, the subsequent handling of the downed aircraft was a gross violation of safety protocol and Lieutenant Waltmon was directly responsible for this act of sheer negligence. As ordered, I completed an aircraft incident report with an addendum that warned the new Air Support administration that if they continued to follow a policy of flying downed aircraft out of confined areas the end result would, sooner or later, be disastrous.
Upon receiving my aircraft incident report, Lieutenant Waltmon ordered me into his office and had me sit in a chair facing his desk. To my left was former IAD sergeant, Sergeant Nassif, who sat in a chair, legs crossed, with a yellow legal pad in her lap and pen in her hand. Lieutenant Waltmon, in his arrogance, began to treat me contemptuously and ordered me to remove the addendum from my aircraft incident report. This unlawful order was motivated by Lieutenant Waltmon’s desperate attempt to conceal his culpability. After sitting for a few minutes and being treated like a bastard child by Lieutenant Waltmon, I carefully removed my pilot wings from my flight suit, gently laid the wings on the Lieutenants desk and politely asked, “Lieutenant Sir, would you please help me get to Westside Patrol?” Lieutenant Walton responded by throwing his hands up into the air and stating, “Fine!”
I requested some days off after that intense and disheartening scenario and proceeded to go directly to my place of residence. While at my residence, I began receiving phone calls from officers assigned to the Air Support Division requesting that I reconsider my request for transfer. Many of the tenured pilots had retired or transferred out of the Air Support Division at this point and the junior pilots were concerned regarding who they could rely on to address their aviation questions and concerns.
Captain Runyan public-serviced me and requested a meeting. After completing my scheduled days off, I met with Captain Runyan in his office. Captain Runyan asked that I not transfer stating he needed tenured pilots to assist him in reorganizing the Air Support Division. I tentatively and cautiously agreed to remain in the Air Support Division. Captain Runyan, concerned relevant to the appearance of disrespect for authority resulting from my having surrendered my wings, told me that he would have to do something to keep up appearances and appease Lieutenant Waltmon whose pride had been insulted by the manner in which I had requested a transfer. Captain Runyan told me that I would have to fly right seat, as an observer, for a period of time. Captain Runyan also demanded that I establish a better working relationship with Sergeant Nassif and Lieutenant Waltmon. I informed Captain Runyan that it was not my responsibility to initiate a relationship with my immediate supervision, especially considering said supervision was too arrogant and prideful to even acknowledge my presence. Captain Runyan, none the less, insisted that I establish such a relationship or I would not be allowed to resume my duties as pilot-in-command.
For the next few months I attempted to maintain a positive attitude and functioned as an observer to the best of my abilities. Captain Runyan was relentless in his demand that I establish a relationship with my immediate supervision. Captain Runyan routinely held private and semi-private meetings with me where we discussed issues related to the Air Support Division. Captain Runyan then called a safety meeting to discuss the downed aircraft incident I was involved in months earlier. Though the investigation revealed that Lieutenant Waltmon and CFI Larry Kroesche had violated protocol and acted with negligence in their recovery of the downed aircraft, Captain Runyan had me sit in front of the training class while he took approximately fifteen to twenty minutes to ridicule, embarrass and humiliate me in the presence of my peers, supervisors and aircraft mechanics. Captain Runyan was insulted by my allegations that he was not taking aircraft safety seriously and used the safety meeting as an opportunity to show his subordinates exactly who was in charge…at my expense.
I proceeded to request another transfer but Captain Runyan would not assist me in my efforts to escape the ever increasing harassment of what had now become a hostile work environment. Chief, I wrote several letters to your office, requesting that your predecessor, Chief Harold Hurtt, intercede on my behalf, but these letters were apparently intercepted by personnel in Chief King’s office and never made their way up the chain-of-command. I know this to be a fact because a fellow pilot requested a meeting with your predecessor in an attempt to inform your office of the unacceptable behavior of Captain Runyan, Lieutenant Waltmon and Sergeant Nassif. During his meeting with Chief Hurtt, the Chief stated that he had no idea that anything was amiss in the Air Support Division and that he had not received any letters from Officer Holtsclaw requesting intercession.
To understand what has transpired from that point forward, you must be made aware of the fact that Chief King and Sergeant Robin Nassif have an extremely close relationship. Sergeant Nassif did not follow protocol in her quest for a position in the Air Support Division. Sergeant Nassif, as a favor for having performed admirably in the Internal Affairs Division, was “assigned” to the Air Support Division, much to the chagrin of Lieutenant King, the Unit Commander at the time. Lieutenant King was upset that his authority to “choose” his sergeants had been usurped by someone in the Command Staff. Lieutenant King was told that he would “create” a position for Sergeant Nassif though no position existed at the time. Everyone in the Air Support Division was keenly aware that Sergeant Nassif was untouchable due her very close relationship with Chief King, the Assistant Chief with direct authority over the Helicopter Unit.
Well Chief, I continued to write letters to your office but again, they never reached their intended destination. Then one day, after submitting another letter to your office, I noticed that Sergeant Nassif had signed-out an unmarked shop and indicated on the vehicle log that she would be at Chief King’s office. Later that afternoon, I was called into Captain Runyan’s office with Sergeant Nassif in attendance. Sergeant Nassif then handed me the absolute worst JPR I had ever seen, let alone, ever received, though all of my previous JPR’s rated me as an excellent employee. I glanced at the JPR and set it aside. Sergeant Nassif, in a crass and arrogant tone asked, “Well, aren’t you going to read it?” I replied, “I’ll look at it later,” knowing that the unsatisfactory JPR was simply a continuation of the harassment and retaliation I had been receiving from my immediate supervision. Captain Runyan then informed me that I was being reassigned and that I was to report to the Special Operations Division at 0600 hours the following morning. As I exited Captain Runyan’s office, I looked behind me and observed Sergeant Nassif tell Captain Runyan to “get his badge,” my Hobby Airport security badge. Captain Runyan sheepishly acknowledged Sergeant Nassif, walked over to my location in the pilot’s lounge, shook my hand, wished me good luck and requested my Hobby badge.
On my way home that day, I public-serviced Captain Runyan and told him that enough was enough. I alluded to the fact that I had been harassed long enough and the unacceptable situation at the Air Support Division was going to be addressed properly from that point forward.
The following week I did something I had not done in twenty-nine years as a Houston Police Officer. I proceeded to the Internal Affairs Division, 1200 Travis, and filed a complaint against Captain Runyan, Lieutenant Waltmon and Sergeant Nassif. At this juncture, one might ask why Sergeant Nassif was included in the complaint.
Sergeant Nassif and I initially had a very good working relationship. She would often time schedule herself to fly with me because I allowed her to equip the helicopter with an additional cyclic, collective and anti-torque pedals. I would give Sergeant Nassif flying lessons, teaching her to hover, fly straight-and-level and circle scenes. Though she was a nervous and apprehensive student, I practiced tremendous patience with her. This amicable relationship continued though I was keenly aware of her poor leadership style and tactless relationship with subordinates.
Soon after Sergeant Nassif had received her pilot wings, she foolishly decided to do something that would eventually change my opinion of her and the Helicopter Unit’s supervision forever. Sergeant Nassif entered the pilot’s lounge wearing a maid’s apron over her flight suit. There were approximately six-to-nine pilots in the lounge at the time; I was standing near the mailbox rack and watching a program on the television while listening to conversations in the lounge. Sergeant Nassif walked into the lounge, faced the TV viewing area, lifted her maid’s apron and displayed objects that were meant to resembled large male testicles. Sergeant Nassif then looked at Officer Gregg Walsh, who was sitting on the couch next to the wall, and asked him, “Hey Gregg, are these big enough for ya?” Laughter broke out as other pilots scrambled to the TV viewing area with their cellular phones trying to take a picture of the sexually explicit sight. Officer Walsh also reached into his breast pocket to retrieve his cell phone but Sergeant Nassif lowered the apron and scurried out of the lounge giggling. I left the area. Though supervisors were aware of Sergeant Nassif’s act of sexual impropriety/sexual harassment, no one dared say anything due to her close relationship with Chief King. I subsequently began to distance myself from Sergeant Robin Nassif and this distancing eventually resulted in relational friction between the Sergeant and myself. Other acts of sexual impropriety involving Sergeant Nassif were discussed among Air Support Personnel.
Hearsay has it that Sergeant Nassif asked a tenured pilot if he would like to wash her panties while she routinely slapped a tactical flight officer on his butt. The tactical flight officer that had been routinely slapped on his butt voiced his concerns in my presence.
- Chief, I want to ask you something very relevant at this point. Chief McClelland, if I were to strap on a fake vulva and rubber breast over my class A uniform, cover these sexually provocative articles with an overcoat, then enter the Records Division break room at Travis, proceed to open my overcoat to a room full of ladies and ask, “Hey girls, are these big enough for ya?,” do you think the sun would set on my backside before your IAD appointees would hunt me down, confiscate my police identification and send me home under indefinite suspension? Yet no one said anything because of Sergeant Nassif’s perceived invincibility as a result of her close relationship with Chief King.
Well, needless to say, my complaint stirred up an abundance of attention from Internal Affairs investigators and I was asked on various occasions to report to the Internal Affairs Division to clarify numerous items of interest. Unfortunately, the harassment from supervision at the Air Support Division did not end there. Captain Runyan met with me several times at the Special Operations Division to sign various forms and other such paper work. Captain Runyan, on one of his visits, presented me with a written order to report to the Personnel Concerns Committee. I asked Captain Runyan details about the Committee but he denied any knowledge of the Committee’s responsibilities. Captain Runyan, too ashamed to admit what he had done, lied to and deceived me. Captain Runyan, Lieutenant Waltmon and Sergeant Nassif attempted to deflect personal culpability by referring me to the Personnel Concerns Committee stating that they were concerned because I had moved my family to another state. This is just another example of the incessant harassment I was receiving from the Air Support administration as they desperately attempted to deflect culpability via obfuscation.
I reported to the Personnel Concerns Committee as ordered and Chief Edwards, after interviewing me, knew that my referral was utter nonsense. Chief Edwards told me that I would not be contacted by the Committee in the future and that I was free to go.
Internal Affairs continued to summon me for additional questioning and clarification. I advised the IAD investigators that I would gladly submit to a polygraph to alleviate any concerns regarding the validity of my allegations. Sergeant Nassif’s sexual impropriety/harassment case was eventually separated from the harassment and negligence case filed against Captain Runyan and Lieutenant Waltmon. This is where things begin to get interesting.
Once again, I was summoned by the Internal Affairs Division to meet with them at 1200 Travis. On this particular occasion, I was escorted into a conference room where I was asked to sit in a chair positioned at a large conference table. An IAD lieutenant and some investigators met with me in the room at which time the lieutenant began to plead with me to settle the complaint. “Officer Holtsclaw, is there anything we can do to make this go away?” The IAD Lieutenant informed me that if I pursed the complaint, “a lot of heads are gonna roll and this will affect a lot of people.” The lieutenant told me that though I could not return to the Air Support Division at that time, “you will probably be able to go back later.” I found that interesting because I had not asked anyone in IAD to secure me a position in the Air Support Division nor did I desire such a position as long as Captain Runyan, Lieutenant Waltmon and Sergeant Nassif were assigned there as supervisors.
Sometime after my meeting with the IAD lieutenant, I was summoned by another supervisor to meet with him in a room at 1200 Travis. It was a large room on one of the upper floors. The lights were not activated and only ambient light shown through the blinds. Only the supervisor and I were in the rather large room. I believe the supervisor motioned for me to have a seat in one of the available chairs. The supervisor did not sit down but maintained a standing position. Though I cannot quote his statements exactly, I remember his threat well enough to feel comfortable using quotation marks.
“Let me tell you something Officer Holtsclaw…You may very well get your pound of flesh out of this, but this Command Staff is also going to get their pound of flesh!” “Where ever you go in this Department, this is gonna follow you!”
In other words, arbitrate or my employment with HPD would be in jeopardy. Chief McClelland, as you can see, the harassment continued. Representatives from IAD continued to call and I continued to report to IAD for “clarification purposes.” The pressure to settle the issue continued. Seeing that I had a daughter in high school in conjunction with my responsibilities as the primary bread winner for my family, I agreed to arbitrate the cases against Captain Runyan and Lieutenant Waltmon. I did not want to arbitrate the sexual impropriety/sexual harassment case against Sergeant Nassif because the thought of being in the same room with the unprincipled Sergeant initiated an unwanted visceral response in my gut. I did agree to sign her case away if that was a viable alternative.
I successfully arbitrated away the cases against Captain Runyan and Lieutenant Waltmon via ADR. I did not hear anything about Sergeant Nassif’s case for approximately one month. I learned, via hearsay, that certain members of the Command Staff had refused to dismiss the case against Sergeant Nassif. Hearsay was that Chief Montalvo wanted to administratively terminate Sergeant Nassif. Eventually, again, according to hearsay, Chief Montalvo suggested a forty-five day suspension in lieu of termination. Chief Buenik allegedly suggested a fifteen-day suspension which Sergeant Nassif subsequently served. Hearsay also has it that Chief King met with Sergeant Nassif at the funeral of her, Sergeant Nassif’s, father and informed her of the fifteen-day suspension.
In preparation for an appeal of the fifteen day suspension, Sergeant Nassif hired a civil attorney to represent her. Sergeant Nassif appealed her fifteen-day suspension which was scheduled for a hearing at 611 Walker. Here is where things get a little suspicious.
An HPD helicopter pilot, working lobby security at 611 Walker, discovered that Sergeant Nassif was scheduled to appear before a hearing examiner that very day. The pilot public-serviced me and asked if I had received a subpoena to appear at the hearing. I advised him that I had not received any notification to appear and was not aware that Sergeant Nassif had appealed her suspension. I was also informed that Chief King was present in the administrative hearing involving Sergeant Nassif.
Apparently, three HPD Air Support officers had been subpoenaed to testify in the administrative hearing involving Sergeant Nassif. According to one of these officers, he was not allowed to testify when it was discovered he was actually going to testify to the truth. According to this officer, he was asked to leave 611 Walker. Hearsay suggests the officer was actually escorted out of the area.
The two remaining Air Support officers apparently coveted their assignment more than their integrity and provided false testimony in favor of Sergeant Nassif. There was no opposing witness to counter the untruthful testimony and Sergeant Nassif’s case was subsequently dismissed and the fifteen days she served on suspension were returned to her. Not only was this travesty of justice carried through successfully, but Sergeant Nassif retained her assignment in the Air Support Division and continues to supervise the men of that Division to this very day.
- This is the point where I come full circle relevant to the earlier mention of my subpoena to testify against Officer Ayala in an administrative hearing. Seeing how conscientious and effective the HPD attorneys were in notifying me of the Ayala arbitration hearing, how is it that I never received any notification relevant to Sergeant Nassif’s administrative hearing? Why was I never contacted by the HPD attorney who was representing the City of Houston in the sexual impropriety/sexual harassment case against Sergeant Nassif? Why was the third officer who was prepared to testify to the truth literally escorted from the trial area? Why is a female sergeant, one that knowingly committed acts of sexual impropriety/sexual harassment in a division full on young men, allowed to maintain her position of authority and leadership in that division?
- I have recently learned that my current Divisional Commander, Captain Mary Lentschke, also has a very close relationship with Chief King and Sergeant Nassif. Do I have a cause for concern here Chief?
I have heard a lot of talk about the Houston Police Department’s desire to be completely “transparent.” I am assuming by “transparent” we mean that everyone and anyone should be able to see clearly into the heart of the Police Department and see that our operation is completely professional and one which continually strives to serve the citizens of Houston with complete integrity. Chief McClelland, are we truly being “transparent?”
R. D. Holtsclaw, Police Officer