GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) – Williamson County commissioners and the Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis are being sued for civil rights violations by a former candidate for an open constable position.
Robert Lloyd, a 27-year law enforcement veteran said he was asked about his views on abortion, gay marriage, religion, and who he voted for in the last electionduring an interview.
Such questions are illegal.
But that didn’t stop Williamson County commissioners from asking those very questions when they were interviewing candidates for the Precinct 3 constable vacancy. And now, one of those candidates is suing them for violating his constitutional rights.
“This needs to stop. It’s ludicrous that this is happening,” Lloyd said.
In March, Lloyd was one of five candidates interviewed for the open Precinct 3 constable position in Williamson County. He says the questions asked by county commissioners took him by surprise.
“The majority of the interview took place asking me what my political affiliation was, my views on abortion, my views on gay marriage, long conversation about my religion,” Lloyd claimed.
Lloyd’s attorneys with the Texas Civil Rights Project say those questions are illegal. In a lawsuit filed Monday, Lloyd recounts his answer when he was asked that question about his position on gay marriage.
“I gave the best answer that I felt that I could with the knowledge that the world is changing, people are changing, the US supreme court looks at these cases every day,” Lloyd said.
According to Lloyd, and the lawsuit, one commissioner responded by saying, “If you are appointed as constable, you better come up with a better answer than that.”
“This is so clearly a violation of both federal and state law,” said Jim Harrington with the Texas Civil Rights Project.
Harrington says not only is this is a clear violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution but also The Texas Bill of Rights, which states “no religious test should ever be required as a qualification to any office.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rules state: “an employer may not base hiring decisions on stereotypes and assumptions about a person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or genetic information.”
When asked about the interview questions in May, Williamson County Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey said those rules don’t apply in this situation.
“In general, this is a process that is different than a normal employment interview because it is an elected position,” Covey said.
When KXAN first reported this story in May, Covey was the only person on the commissioners court to agree to an on-camera interview.
“We wanted to make sure the candidate could not only do the job as constable, but also handle the rigor of political life,” Covey said.
Lloyd’s attorneys also obtained handwritten notes taken by one commissioner during the interview process.
“You can see that they actually took notes about gay marriage and abortion responses and noted that in their political, religious opinion, that his response was not definitive,” said Wayne Krause Yang. “So you can see that this actually affected his ability to be a constable.”
Lloyd says he’s not asking for money from the lawsuit.
“My only drive in this is that I want it to be made public, and I want it to be corrected,” he said.
Two other candidates for the constable position are also joining this lawsuit, according to lawyers with the Texas Civil Rights Project. The group has also filed a criminal complaint with the Williamson County District Attorney’s office, asking for a criminal investigation.
KXAN reached out to each of the Williamson County commissioners on Monday and had not received any response to the lawsuit.