Former police chief alleges Pharr discriminated against him over PTSD diagnosis

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Andy Harvey

Former police chief and city manager for the city of Pharr, Andy Harvey, has filed another lawsuit against his former employer that alleges that he faced discrimination as a result of him having post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the petition, which was filed on Nov. 13, Harvey’s attorney, Mark Sanchez, claims that members of the Pharr City Commission, including Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, weaponized Harvey’s condition as a way of showing that he was unfit for his former positions.

Harvey, a United States Air Force veteran who served in Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom, was diagnosed with “severe anxiety and depression stemming from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” by a Veterans Affairs doctor in 2020, according to the lawsuit, which said he received a 70% impairment rating and continues to receive treatment.

He was confirmed as Pharr’s police chief at the recommendation of former interim City Manager Ed Wylie during a special meeting of the city commission on July 13, 2020. He would go on to fill Wylie’s seat as city manager on April 22, 2022, serving in both roles as police chief and city manager.

“During a private meeting with Commissioner Ramiro Caballero (“Caballero”) and shared with him, in confidence, that he suffered from PTSD, was on daily prescription medications, and had frequent visits with his doctor,” the complaint reads. “Mr. Harvey had never disclosed his disability and expected Caballero to honor his request that he respect his privacy.”

In August 2022, Harvey was made aware of sexual harassment allegations made against Wylie, who at the time was deputy city manger, that stemmed from September 2021. He was approached by one of the victims who filed a formal complaint against Wylie.

“She specifically complained to Mr. Harvey that Wylie was a sexual predator, lusted after her body, sent her sexually provocative and disgusting text messages, and created a hostile environment when she refused his perverted unwelcome advances,” the lawsuit reads. “Mr. Harvey was shocked by her claims and even more shocked that, in over a year, Pharr had done nothing to investigate or to stop Wylie’s abuse of female employees.”

The lawsuit said Harvey felt he had to protect the employee.

“As City Manager, Mr. Harvey opposed Wylie’s sexual harassment and the hostile work environment he created and fostered,” the complaint continued. “Mr. Harvey was determined to protect female employees from sexual abuse.”

Harvey’s attorney claims that his client confronted Hernandez ​​on Aug. 15, 2022 about the sexual harassment complaints made against Wylie. The lawsuit claims that Hernandez, the city commission and Pharr Human Resources had been made aware of the complaints a year prior but had failed to investigate the harassment. During the meeting, Harvey informed Hernandez that he would discharge Wylie, according to the petition.

“Instead of supporting Mr. Harvey’s plan to protect female employees, Mayor Hernandez became furious and visibly angry. He immediately ordered Mr. Harvey ‘to work from home’ and barred him from the City Manager’s office,” the lawsuit stated. “Mr. Harvey came to the realization that Mayor Hernandez would protect Wylie at all cost.”

Former Pharr Police Chief Andy Harvey poses at the Pharr Police Department on Monday, March 22, 2021, in Pharr. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

According to that document, Harvey was brought into executive session during the Sept. 6, 2022 city commission meeting to discuss his employment.

“​​Mr. Harvey was brought into Executive Session where Mayor Hernandez told him, ‘…we have to do away with the old contract se va tirar because you’re not the City Manager anymore…’ Mayor Hernandez ominously threatened, ‘This will be done today,’ meaning that Pharr would terminate Mr. Harvey,” the lawsuit states. “Then, Caballero blurted out that Mr. Harvey suffered from PTSD. Mr. Harvey was shocked and humiliated that Caballero revealed his disability to the Commission.”

The lawsuit alleges that Harvey was pressured to “prove he was not mentally and emotionally unhinged” and provide “medical clearance” that he was not a “physical threat” before he could return to work.

Harvey was presented with a ​​“resignation agreement” and offered an ultimatum of resigning or facing termination.

“Mr. Harvey signed the agreement under duress and coercion,” the lawsuit continued.

On Sept. 12, 2022, Harvey was presented with another ultimatum that he resign or face termination from his position as chief of police, according to the petition.

“​​Mr. Harvey contends that Pharr breached the City Manager Employment Agreement, discriminated against him because of his disability, regarded him as disabled, denied his requests for reasonable accommodations, and retaliated against him because he engaged in protected conduct,” the complaint read.

The lawsuit is the latest in an ongoing saga involving Harvey and the city of Pharr, including his arrest on Sept. 23 for allegedly making a silent abusive call to 911 and resisting arrest, as well as an additional open records lawsuit filed on June 9 against the city of Pharr attempting to get the court to compel Pharr to release items requested under the Texas Public Information Act.

As of Tuesday, the city of Pharr had not yet filed a response.

An initial hearing in the case has not yet been scheduled.