Outside Law Firm Investigating APD Second-in-Command Over Texts

D.A. believes messages were attempt to gather dirt on his office

Austin Police Department Chief of Staff Jeff Greenwalt (courtesy of Austin Police Department)

The city of Austin has opened an investigation into why a top police official texted a former Travis County District Attorney’s Office employee in what may have been an attempt to dig up dirt on D.A. José Garza.

A city spokesperson confirmed to the Chronicle on April 16 that law firm Littler Mendelson, known for being anti-labor, would be conducting the investigation. “There is ongoing internal investigation into this matter,” the spokesperson told us, “and we are unable to provide answers to specific questions at this time.”

The matter in question: text messages Austin Police Department Chief of Staff Jeff Greenwalt sent to former D.A.’s Office employee Samantha Liedtke (also a former Austin police officer who is suing the city over alleged workplace discrimination) late last year, which was first reported by the Chronicle Feb. 16.

Screenshot showing texts sent by APD Chief of Staff Jeff Greenwalt

“I was told by some trusted friends that you may be willing to anonymously share some stories about ur [sic] former workplace,” Greenwalt wrote to Liedtke Nov. 28. That initial message set off a chain of events that led to Garza writing to Austin’s interim Police Chief Robin Henderson in a Feb. 14 email, “It is becoming apparent to me that you either condone Greenwalt’s behavior or are unwilling to hold him accountable for his misconduct.”

Not long after, city and APD leadership agreed to open the investigation, interim Assistant City Manager Bruce Mills told us. Mills, who oversees the city’s three public safety departments, said Henderson and City Attorney Anne Morgan both agreed an investigation was warranted – especially following Garza’s insistence that the city and department take the matter seriously after they first downplayed the incident. Initially, Greenwalt explained the texts as an attempt to “shut down false rumors” about the D.A.’s Office, and when the D.A. pressed interim Chief Henderson via email, she responded: “I trust Greenwalt clearly communicated the circumstances.”

“It’s best to keep these kinds of investigations at arm’s length.”  – Interim Assistant City Manager Bruce Mills

Now, an outside agency will look into the matter to bring more objectivity to the investigation, Mills says. “When you’re investigating something like this,” Mills told us, “especially involving someone on the Fifth Floor [of APD HQ, where top brass work], it’s just best practice to go outside. It’s best to keep these kinds of investigations at arm’s length.” The city has retained Littler Mendelson in the past, including for a workplace discrimination lawsuit filed by a former Austin Resource Recovery employee – which the city won and successfully defended on appeal. Currently, the city has three master agreements in place with the firm, per the city’s online financial database, and has paid them a total of $82,904 dating back to 2022.

Littler Mendelson appears to have begun their work last week; on Friday, April 12, they emailed Rebecca Webber and Holt Lackey, the attorneys representing Liedtke in her suit against the city, as well as the D.A.’s Office to arrange hourlong interviews with Liedtke, Garza, and two of his top deputies. “We have been retained by the [city] to conduct an investigation regarding a complaint that [Henderson] submitted to [APD] on Feb. 14,” an attorney with Littler Mendelson wrote to Webber and Lackey.

The email does not state that the investigation is into Greenwalt’s texts, but it does make clear that the allegations in Henderson’s complaint “are not directed towards Ms. Liedtke and do not accuse her of any wrongdoing.” After receiving the email, Lackey told us, he called an attorney at the firm to learn more about the investigation and to determine what obligations his client had to participate in the investigation. On that call, the Littler Mendelson attorney confirmed they were “looking into the text messages reported on in the Chronicle,” Lackey told us. Lackey and Webber declined to comment further.

Garza also declined to comment for this story. At this point, it is unclear if Liedtke or D.A. leadership will agree to the interviews.

The scope of Littler Mendelson’s investigation is also unclear. When reached, the attorney who emailed Webber and Garza declined to comment. Kim Rives Miers, managing shareholder of Littler Mendelson’s Austin office, did not respond to our requests for comment. Whatever the scope is, Mills told us the city is going to stay out of it.

“The city and police department will be totally hands-off,” Mills said. “[Littler Mendelson] will interview subjects, investigate the facts, then write a report and hand it off to our city attorney.”

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