Two former Hidalgo County employees who worked for former Justice of the Peace Homer Jasso are suing the county for between $250,000 and $1 million apiece, alleging that the judge caused them to be terminated in retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint against him.
In an interview with the Progress Times Wednesday, Jasso, 79, laughed at allegations against him and called them “baloney,” though he acknowledged that he doesn’t remember the time period involved all that well and seemed at times confused.
The suits follow the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanding Jasso earlier this year for failing to complete 40 hours of judicial education related to a prior sexual harassment claim made in 2016.
Nadia Marilu Ramirez, who was an assistant court coordinator in Jasso’s office, filed suit against the county in August. Harvey Rodriguez, who was a clerk, filed just last week.
The suits describe Ramirez making a complaint about Jasso’s alleged sexual misconduct in August of 2022, a complaint Rodriguez helped file.
Both say they wound up being terminated before the end of that month.
Jasso served as Justice of the Peace Precinct 4, Place 2 for two decades.
He did not seek reelection in 2022 and Andre Maldonado replaced him after the November election that year.
According to court documents, Ramirez worked in Jasso’s office for about two years. The documents say Rodriguez worked for the county for almost five years, but Jasso said she only worked in his office for a few months.
The suits describe Rodriguez helping Ramirez file a sexual harassment complaint against Jasso with the county’s human resources department in early August of 2022.
Ramirez supplemented that complaint with additional allegations in the days that followed, her suit says, and human resources personnel asked her to provide a detailed, written statement on the alleged harassment by mid-month.
Court documents describe at least some of the alleged harassment.
According to the suit, Jasso would begin unzipping his robe but would stop near his groin, directing Ramirez “Andale quitame esto,” telling her to hurry to remove the robe and obliging her “to continue unzipping it so her hands would be in the area of his genitals.”
“Also, he would sit on a chair and have Ms. Ramirez start zipping his black robe from his groin area up to his chest,” the suit says. “He also invited Ms. Ramirez to South Padre Island. He was also vulgar, describing one female co-worker’s buttocks as large (‘nalgona’).”
In one instance, the suit alleges, Ramirez took the judge by the hand and helped him from his chair.
“He threatened to pull her onto him the next time (‘A la otra’),” it says.
Jasso laughed at the idea of doing things like that in the office.
“I have 10, 15 employees there, you think I’m gonna be doing that? Isn’t that crazy,” he said.
Jasso suggested Ramirez and Rodriguez may have thought they were going to be fired for legitimate performance issues and concocted the sexual harassment allegations in light of that.
“They just want the money. They’re hard on money, and they want to get money any way they can,” he said.
Jasso questioned why, if the sexual harassment claims against him were valid, Ramirez didn’t pursue them in 2022.
Ramirez didn’t have very long to pursue her complaint, not as a county employee anyway. She and Rodriguez lasted less than three weeks after speaking out before being terminated.
Rodriguez’s suit alleges that in mid-August of 2022 Hidalgo County Human Resources Director Erika Reyna interviewed him and asked him to provide a written statement, in which Rodriguez says he described encouraging Ramirez to report her allegations.
Just four days after the interview — on August 23 — the suit says Jasso fired Rodriguez.
“Justice of the Peace Homer Jasso stated he no longer needed my services,” Rodriguez wrote in a court document. Jasso says his court coordinator, Claudia Quiroga, fired Rodriguez. He said Rodriguez deserved to be terminated.
“She was not doing his work, to start with,” Jasso said. “And second, too much gossip there in the office. And I was sick and tired of it. Just gossip, gossip, gossip.”
Ramirez found herself unemployed that same day.
Reyna told her that Jasso and Quiroga submitted a “change of status” form to the county resulting in her termination, Ramirez’s suit says.
“According to Ms. Reyna, who either did not read Ms. Ramirez’s grievance or maybe chose to ignore it, JP Jasso could terminate Ms. Ramirez because he was at the time an “elected official” pursuant to ‘policy,’” the suit says. “It was common for JP Jasso to threaten Hidalgo County employees with termination at work.”
Jasso, however, denied having anything to do with Ramirez’s firing.
“I did not terminate her. The county terminated her,” he said.
The suit alleges Quiroga was aware of the sexual harassment complaints.
Recent campaign finance reports list a Claudia Salinas-Quiroga as Jasso’s campaign treasurer, though Jasso said he couldn’t remember if they were the same person.
In a court filing earlier this month, Hidalgo County denied Ramirez’s allegations.
Jasso, for his part, invited the two former employees to take some kind of legal action against him. He said the allegations are the result of Ramirez “lying a thousand times.”
“The best thing for them to do is for them to hire their attorneys and take me to court,” Jasso said. “And then, any time that they call me to court, I’ll go. I’m not backing up.”
Ramirez and Rodriguez’s claims are the latest of several misconduct allegations against Jasso, at least some of which resulted in action and cost taxpayers money.
Ramirez’s sexual harassment claims are not the first the former judge has faced.
In early 2016, an anonymous employee of Jasso’s alleged he had sexually harassed her.
“She alleged Judge Jasso kissed her, touched her inappropriately, and made inappropriate comments about her body,” a 2018 public reprimand from the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct says.
The reprimand says the county hired that woman in a different office later in 2016, and that she dismissed a complaint she’d made. A few months later, however, Jasso again hired her as his office’s assistant court coordinator — the same position held by Ramirez — at which point Jasso said he and the woman had “an intimate relationship he described as ‘consensual.’”
Jasso offered contradictory testimony on whether he’d kissed the woman, touched her or made sexual comments toward her, once saying he had done so and once saying he hadn’t.
The reprimand says he wasn’t able to explain the discrepancy.
In a sworn statement, Jasso admitted to telling that woman she had “a nice butt.”
In the summer of 2016, before Jasso rehired the anonymous woman, he fired five employees, leaving him staffless for a time.
They later sued him, claiming that Jasso fired them because he feared they would back a political rival.
The county wound up paying those employees a total of $165,000 in a settlement agreement.
Those staff members’ absence, Jasso told the judicial commission, resulted in a court error.
That error and the sexual harassment allegations prompted the commission to publicly reprimand Jasso and order him to complete 80 hours worth of judicial training.
The commission says he failed to do the second half of that training.
Failure to complete that training and failure to cooperate with the commission resulted in yet another public reprimand for Jasso this April.
According to the reprimand, Jasso never responded to the commission’s attempts to reach him on the lacking training.
“Judge Jasso’s failure in these respects constituted willful or persistent conduct that is clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of his duties and cast public discredit upon the judiciary or the administration of justice…” the second reprimand says.
Jasso, however, said his attorney’s been trying to reach the commission unsuccessfully. He claims health issues last year prevented him from completing the required training.
“I was in the hospital. I had a big operation,” Jasso said.
That second reprimand — issued after Jasso was no longer a judge — failed to make headlines.
Another public gaffe did make the news.
In 2018 Jasso ran into a parked car in an Edinburg parking lot and left the scene.
Police charged Jasso with duty for striking an unattended vehicle, briefly jailing him.
A judge dismissed those charges in 2019 after Jasso completed defensive driving and paid restitution.