Article alleges job discrimination under State Sen. Pete Flores' watch at Texas Parks & Wildlife

click to enlarge State Sen. Pete Flores retired as head of the Texas Park & Wildlife Department's law enforcement division in 2012. - TWITTER / @PETEFLORES_TX
Twitter / @PeteFlores_TX
State Sen. Pete Flores retired as head of the Texas Park & Wildlife Department's law enforcement division in 2012.
A 2012 Austin Chronicle investigation raised allegations that Black game wardens at the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department faced career roadblocks while State Sen. Pete Flores, who's now seeking reelection, headed its Law Enforcement Division.

Just three Black game wardens were commissioned during Flores' 2005-2012 tenure as director, the Chronicle reported in a story examining allegations of discrimination at the department. During that period, TP&W hired no new Black male wardens and only one Black woman, according to the investigation.

Flores, a freshman Republican who retired from TP&W in 2012, is running for reelection in November, facing Democratic State Rep. Roland Gutierrez, a former San Antonio councilman.

Flores' campaign was unavailable for comment on the Chronicle story at the Current's press time.

Flores' District 19 includes the Alamo City and a long swath of the U.S.-Mexico border. He won the seat in a surprise 2018 victory over former Democratic State Rep and U.S. Congressman Pete Gallego.

The Chronicle's story relied on two Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints plus interviews with TPW game wardens who spoke on anonymity because they feared retaliation.

In response to an inquiry by the Current, the EEOC said it didn't litigate the two complaints so it had no comment on them.

Texas Parks & Wildlife was unable to provide an immediate comment on the article's allegations. However, in 2012 comments to the Chronicle,
Executive Director Carter Smith said the agency doesn't tolerate discrimination and that it "can, must, and will do better."

According to the Chronicle's investigation, Flores regularly hired and promoted Hispanic game wardens during his time as director, which helped raise the agency's overall diversity numbers. However, one warden who spoke to the paper on condition of anonymity alleged that Flores passed over Blacks, believing "they weren't interested in getting an education."

"The color of one's skin can mean 30 years of going nowhere," one warden interviewed by the paper said of barriers faced by Black TP&W employees.

The Texas Democratic Party said the Chronicle article shows a "pattern of discrimination" by Flores.

“Racism of any kind from anyone is unacceptable. It is even less so when it comes from our elected officials, who are sworn to serve the people — ALL the people — of their districts," said Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Cliff Walker said in an emailed statement. "Flores represents a district with a significant African American population, which he has proven he is unqualified to represent."

Gutierrez — Flores' opponent in the November election — didn't offer specific comment on the allegations raised by the Chronicle.

"Senator Flores embraces Donald Trump and his principles," Gutierrez said. "Flores doesn’t deserve to represent us because he doesn’t represent our values. Quite simply we deserve better.”

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