Arbitrator Upholds Lieutenant’s Termination For January 6 Charges

This article appears in the March 2022 issue of our monthly newsletter, Public Safety Labor News.

Roxanne Mathai was a lieutenant with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in Texas. Mathai maintained a Facebook page that had photos of her in her Sheriff’s Office uniform.

On January 7, 2021, the Sheriff’s Office learned from Mathai’s Facebook page that she had participated in the events at the Capitol on January 6. Mathai posted pictures and videos of rioters climbing the walls of the Capitol building. When the Sheriff’s Office interviewed Mathai, it questioned her as to whether she had witnessed any crimes being committed, “including but not limited to unlawful entry of the U.S. Capitol or property of U.S. Capitol,” Mathai answered that she was “not a peace officer and did not possess a complete understanding of the law in her own jurisdiction much less in Washington D.C.”

Mathai’s Facebook post included the following: “And we are going in…. in the crowd at the stairs…not inside the capitol like the others. Not catching a case LOL.” Mathai’s posts and pictures on her Facebook page of her at the insurrection had visitor comments like “terrorist who works as a lieutenant at the Bexar Co Sheriff’s Office” and “Why is there a BCSO Lt participating in that mess in DC.”

When Mathai was fired, the Deputy Sheriff’s Association of Bexar County challenged the termination in arbitration. Arbitrator Thomas Cipolla recently upheld the termination.

The Arbitrator noted that “there is no persuasive evidence that Mathai went beyond the perimeters cordoned off by law enforcement, trespassed on government property or otherwise committed a criminal offense while there. However, she saw people trespassing, climbing on walls and scaffolding at the Capitol building, barricades knocked down and she ascertained that teargas had been employed by local law enforcement and despite this, she continued to linger at a location that appeared to be escalating in its lawlessness.

“Moreover, she later returned to the location after seeing reports of what had occurred and had notice of a 6:00 p.m. curfew that evening. Finally, from the time of her attendance at the rally through her return to Texas and afterwards, she never contacted any of her supervisors to inform them what she saw and what she heard. Moreover, it is clear from her own testimony that she witnessed and, in some cases, photographed or took videos of numerous people committing acts of trespass and destruction and possibly violence in violation of the law.”

The Arbitrator’s opinion contained several observations challenging Mathai’s credibility: “The circumstances and facts of the January 6 lawless conduct and Mathai’s own comments about the matter show a real disconnect between what happened and what she said she observed. Furthermore, Mathai’s assessment of the reason for the rally and what actually occurred is wanting in both its reasoning and logic.

“The purpose of the rally, by all accounts, was to convince Congress to overturn the 2020 Presidential Election or at the very least not certify the entirety of Electoral College votes/ballots. Lawless activity ensued that day from trespass and destruction of property to assault, battery and death. To say the least, Mathai (who is neither a journalist or historian) was correct in stating that she was documenting history – but assigning the notion of patriotism to purpose of the rally is naïve at best and hypocritical at worst.

“Moreover, Mathai observed people trespassing, barricades that were knocked down and experienced tear gas in the air. Nevertheless, she contends that she saw nothing illegal. Finally, Mathai gave an interview to a foreign news service to explain why she attended the rally – apparently never caring to acknowledge the seriousness of what actually occurred.”

The Arbitrator concluded that Mathai violated several Sheriff’s Office policies, including prohibitions on conduct having an adverse effect on the Sheriff’s Office, conduct unbecoming, improper social media use, and failing to report crimes. As Mathai was in the middle of serving a 120-day suspension because of her activities regarding January 6, the Arbitrator held there was no reason to mitigate the penalty of termination.

Bexar County, Texas (Cipolla, 2021).

Also in the March 2022 issue:

  • LAPD Officers Lose Job To Pokémon Go
  • Effects Of Mandatory Psychological Exam Negotiable
  • Court Turns Down Vaccination Challenge From LAPD Officers
  • Failure To Include Video, Photos In Record Results In Termination Being Upheld
  • Trooper Should Have Known Falsifying Report Violated Rules
  • ‘Do Not Call’ List Subject To Public Disclosure
  • Temporary Loss Of Awareness Due To PTSD Not Covered By ADA
  • Deputy Sheriffs As Political Appointees, With No Job Rights
  • Union Can Demand Mid-Term Bargaining On Topic Not Covered By Contract
  • Seizure Of CO’s Personal Guns Does Not Violate Law
  • Firefighter Must Follow Union’s Bylaws Before Filing Fair Representation Claim
  • Q & A
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