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Nueces County Risk Manager says he was suspended for refusing a drug test

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Lance Esswein has worked for Nueces County for five years. Lance Esswein has worked for Nueces County for five years.

The Nueces County Risk Manager who was suspended without pay for 90 days says he was suspended for refusing to take a random drug test.

On June 30th, Nueces County Commissioners suspended Lance Esswein for insubordination. On July 11th, Esswein, who's worked for Nueces County for five years, stopped by KRIS 6 News studio to tell his side of the story. Esswein says he was suspended because he missed two meetings with Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal, didn't return one of the Judge's phone calls and refused to take two random drug tests. He says taking a random drug test violates his constitutional rights. 

Esswein admitted that he appeared tipsy and light headed at the office a few weeks ago but said he was sleep deprived. He said he was dealing with some family issues but his co-workers failed to ask him how he was doing.

Esswein says a few weeks later, Nueces County Commissioners Court Administrator Steve Waterman told him a notice had been sent to his office on April 26, letting him know he had to take a random drug test. Esswein said he didn't receive the notice and when he later found out about it, said he shouldn't be randomly drug tested. Esswein said,"We have to designate which personnel are on the random list by specific job duties. I've never been on the random list, never been designated on the random list for the five years I've been there" He added,"So, I kind of asked him (Waterman), I said "If I got a letter that had me on a random drug list test, I would have been up in your office that day saying "This is unconstitutional. Look at our instruction. I don't meet those requirements. My job and my office has never been on that list. So, why would I be put on that list?" Esswein claims Waterman told him he had been selected by Judge Neal to undergo the test.

When asked how he felt when most people say public employees in the workforce should be subject to random drug testing, Esswein replied, "I don't mind the random testing but the rules are specific. Even in my own instruction, the Nueces County Drug Free Workplace Policy states that random testing will only be conducting with these following positions and it lists what type of duties. Then, it states that you must be designated, you must be notified and you must have a random number assigned to you. Well, Nueces County is not adhering to their own policy. They're not doing random tests to their own policy."

During a May 19th meeting with County Judge Loyd Neal, Esswein agreed to take a drug test. He says on May 22nd, the Nueces County Human Resources director and two county commissioners came into his office. They told him his drug sample was diluted and asked him to take another drug test. Esswein agreed and said the second test turned out negative.

On June 29th, Esswein met behind closed doors with the Nueces County Commissioners Court to defend the charges against him. He says he made a presentation during executive session. He said he missed two meeting with County Judge Loyd Neal he was scheduled to be off. Esswein said on one of those days he had to appear in court. On the other day, he was moving out of his home.

Esswein said he's not sure what he plans to do now. He said, "I love the job I do. I feel we've made a great difference in Nueces County since I've been there. Our losses have come way down. Our programs are way up. The administrator of our Workman's Compensation, the Texas Association of Counties has put us as one of the top counties in the state of Texas. That shows we're doing some great things at the county."

KRIS 6 News reached out to the Nueces County Human Resources Department to get more information on Nueces County's Drug Testing Policy but no one has returned our call.

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