District Attorney Kim Ogg has lost sight of “justice for all” as she continues to pull “publicity stunts” that effectively cheapen the jobs of police officers who were in harm’s way during the George Floyd demonstrations.
Mary Nan Huffman, Ogg’s Republican opponent in November and the HPOU’s endorsed candidate, made this position clear in an interview with the Badge & Gun. She also took offense at Ogg’s effort to intimidate members of her prosecutorial staff in another one of her campaign appearances. Huffman said staff morale is reaching a new low because of Ogg’s intimidation of her staff.
Arrest and Release
These two examples of “so-called leadership” are not effective ways to run the office of Harris County’s leading elected law enforcement official, Huffman believes. She made these statements while feeling stymied by the coronavirus policies that prohibit block walking and other traditional campaign activities.
The candidate continues to use social media and takes advantage of any opportunity to speak to groups meeting the masking and distancing requirements.
Huffman was still disgusted and frustrated over Ogg’s publicity-inspired maneuver to have more than 600 demonstrators – “many of whom were violent” – arrested, only to soon dismiss all the charges against them.
The ardent challenger cited the violent acts committed against HPD personnel such as Sgt. Darren Schlosser (see his story in this issue) as an obvious example of how violent many of the protesters were.
“They weren’t peaceful,” she asserted. “Many were peaceful, but the groups of people arrested were throwing bricks, bottles of urine, feces and everything else at the officers who were trying to get them to disperse. They weren’t dispersing; they were obstructing roadways. Ambulances couldn’t get down the street.”
Huffman said the massive crowds made it challenging to determine who threw which brick, thwarting efforts to determine which protesters needed to face serious charges.
As it was, Ogg found that probable cause existed to make the arrests but then dismissed charges across the board – everyone went free.
“Kim Ogg is full of publicity stunts, campaign stunts and media attention-grabbing acts,” Huffman asserted. “This was one of them. There would be no other reason take charges on cases she had no intent of prosecuting.”
“She is out for number one and doesn’t care about justice or the justice system. Well, I’m not running against Kim Ogg, I’m running for Harris County and the citizens who want justice served.
“I wouldn’t put police officers or my staff in danger to initiate a dangerous publicity stunt like hers. If I believe there’s probable cause to accept a charge, then I will prosecute the case based on the evidence.”
She also pointed out that she would see that the county resources were being used appropriately, efficiently, and effectively, saying, “Ogg got things so backed up that it took some people two days to get processed through the jail.”
“Why use the resources, manpower, and do all the paperwork- to just turn around and dismiss all the charges? There is already a growing backlog at office. Wouldn’t it make more sense to use that effort to resolve old cases or to reach out to the victims who have cases pending?”
Huffman said she thinks the county should expect dozens of the released arrestees “to seek an expungement of their arrest records,” resulting in “tons of paperwork” and court time.
Politicizing Job Performances
Huffman, who has represented many Houston police officers in her role on the HPOU Legal Staff, addressed how officers putting their lives and safety on the line for nothing shows how much the incumbent DA values officers and first responders.
“If I were an officer down there and I had bricks thrown at me and I knew that was her plan all along, I would be pissed,” she said.
Then Huffman also drubbed Ogg for her effort to pressure her prosecutors to appear at a Democratic voter registration event or face retaliation when their job performance review came up for review.
The “volunteer” recruitment effort unfolded in an email Ogg sent out to assistant district attorneys regarding a June 27 Ministers Coalition of Harris County voter registration event in which Ogg was a speaker.
The email stated, “Part of every employee’s performance evaluation includes a grade for personal development. This includes community activities and volunteering for projects like this.”
Pressured because of the obvious stress placed on her “employees” to get involved in her campaign events, Ogg turned to staff member Mark Goldberg to send out another email to spin the situation in another direction.
Goldberg said the first email went out by mistake, saying it should have been from his email address. He called it a “a draft form with some misinformation.” He said he was responsible for the confusion and apologized to the assistant district attorneys.
“Additionally,” Goldberg explained, “I would like to add that no one is ever required to volunteer. I simply pointed out the latest opportunity to engage in the community. Like any other organization, this office recognizes that volunteering in the community is professional development that deserves credit. It builds trust between the people of Harris County and our office.”
“You are our ambassadors and we pride ourselves on volunteerism,” the Goldberg email said.
There was no direct mention about the effects, good or bad, on the job performance review of any district attorney.
Huffman again strongly suggested that this is no way to run the District Attorney’s Office. It was an obvious intimidation attempt to force participation in events promoting her politics. This is Abuse of Official Capacity. It’s a crime.”
Huffman’s campaign stresses the need for higher morale and the retention of veteran prosecutors who have been to many rodeos. The office has lost dozens, perhaps hundreds, of years of experience due to Ogg’s habit of running off excellent assistants who want to protect the people of Harris County without being pressed to be used as political pawns.
“Everything Kim Ogg does is for the benefit Kim Ogg. She strong-arms her staff to campaign for her. When she finds out the downside, she has some other guy take the fall saying she’s not the one who did it.”
One more incident that “benefits Kim” was Commissioners Court’s approval of more prosecutors and $200,000 to hire a legal consultant to advise prosecutors handling the Harding Street drug raid case, only to learn from a Houston Chronicle story that the consultant has only worked 17 hours in 9 months, having been cut of the investigation.
Where is the Money?
“Again,” Huffman said, “this is a situation that only benefits Kim. It was an excuse for her to convince the Commissioners to give her more resources and then not really the resources for their promised purpose. If I didn’t intend to use an expert, I wouldn’t have misled to the commissioners and asked for one.”
Furthermore, she said, “I’m not sure what the $200,000 was used for when the consultant was ready to work and nobody would respond to him. No doubt the money benefitted Kim Ogg somehow.”
The commissioners did not give Ogg a positive response when she previously requested more funding to hire more prosecutors. After all, Huffman said, since she took office, she has never had a full staff.
“They didn’t give her more money because they don’t trust her. She lacks credibility when she asks to hire more prosecutors but still hasn’t gotten her prosecuting staff back to 100 percent since the massive firing she did when she took office. I would put together a full staff and then evaluate the need before I asked to hire even more prosecutors.
“I think there needs to be some expertise brought back into this office. Whether that’s hiring veteran prosecutors or seasoned lawyers willing to do the job. It’s clear – we need good prosecutors and high morale in the DA’s office.
“There were some great people that left because of Kim Ogg and some may be willing to come back. The morale is so low it’s a wonder she has any experienced ADAs left. I appreciate people who feel the call to be prosecutors. You don’t want people who are there just for a paycheck.”
l the call to be prosecutors. You don’t want people who are there just for a paycheck.”