A law firm representing an unnamed Dallas County employee says former Health Director Zachary Thompson engaged in a pattern of "sexual abuse, harassment, intimidation and retaliation" inside the county health department.
Thompson was fired Jan. 3 and an interim director was named. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins confirmed the director's termination Thursday, but initially declined to elaborate on what led to the firing.
In a statement released late Friday afternoon, Jenkins said the accusations were first brought to Dallas County human resources in December 2017 and later in an email to Jenkins on Dec. 22.
Jenkins said the matter was forwarded to the District Attorney's office and placed on the Jan. 2 agenda for the Dallas County Commissioner's Court to be discussed in depth during the executive session. Following that meeting, Jenkins had another meeting with Dallas County Human Resources Director Urmit Graham, Commissioners Court Administrator Darryl Martin and county attorneys.
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"We discussed the concern that there did not appear to be cooperation from Mr. Thompson in that he reportedly would not discuss the allegations made against him when asked by Court Administration," Jenkins said in his statement.
Jenkins said Martin sent Thompson a text asking him to categorically deny the allegation and that Thompson declined to do so. Martin spoke to Thompson on the telephone Wednesday and informed him that he would receive a termination letter effective that day, Jan. 3.
The firm representing the county employee said Dallas County officials failed to take adequate steps to rectify the situation and protect the victim.
"Our client has alleged a pattern and practice of sexual abuse, harassment, intimidation, and retaliation by Mr. Thompson," The Spencer Scott Law Firm said in a news release Friday afternoon. "We look forward to working with Dallas County officials to ensure safety, closure, and justice for this employee and to ensure additional employees do not fall victim to the same harassment our client experienced."
The woman's lawyers said to protect her privacy they will not reveal her name and she will not participate in any interviews.
"The termination of Mr. Thompson this week is a step forward for our client and a sign as to the serious nature and validity of her claim. She is eager to work in an environment without the constant mental anguish and fear of when the next instance of harassment or retaliation might occur," the firm said.
Thompson has been out of the office since late December and was to retire Jan. 31. According to the health department, he was no longer with the agency effective Dec. 29, 2017.
Thompson's attorney, Anthony Lyons, told NBC 5 Friday his client had no comment and still had received no written notice of this termination as of Friday morning. Lyons said Thompson learned of his termination in media reports Thursday afternoon. He said Thompson had been out of the office, using earned compensation time that was to carry through his planned Jan. 31 retirement.
Thompson served as deputy director of DCHHS for eight years before being named director in 2004.
As director of the Dallas County Health Department, Thompson, along with Jenkins and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, was twice cast into the national spotlight due to health scares in Dallas County.
Together, the trio led the county's fight against West Nile virus in 2012 that sickened hundreds and killed 13 as well as the clampdown of Ebola in 2014 after a Liberian traveler tested positive for the deadly virus while visiting Dallas.
According to his bio with the Dallas County Community College District, Thompson earned an associate degree from El Centro College before transferring to the University of Texas at Arlington where he obtained a bachelor's in social work. He went on to earn a master's from Amber University.
Thompson's bio also said he is an adjunct professor at DCCC's Eastfield College. The college said Friday that Thompson is not currently teaching any classes.
The news of Thompson's ouster comes as DCHHS confirmed on Thursday the county's seventh, eighth and ninth flu deaths amid a worsening flu season.