In lawsuit, ex-assistant police chief alleges gender discrimination and retaliation against Bellmead city manager

Former Assistant Bellmead Police Chief Brenda Kinsey (left), and Bellmead City Manager Yost...
Former Assistant Bellmead Police Chief Brenda Kinsey (left), and Bellmead City Manager Yost Zakhary (right)(McLennan Co. Jail photo, Bellmead city photo)
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 5:38 PM CDT
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BELLMEAD, Texas (KWTX) - The former assistant police chief for the city of Bellmead has filed a lawsuit against the city and City Manager Yousry (Yost) Zakhary, alleging gender discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination.

Brenda Kinsey, who Bellmead police arrested last month for a second time, is seeking unspecified damages in her lawsuit, filed in Waco’s U.S. District Court by Waco attorney Ryan C. Johnson.

This is one of the most egregious and brazen cases of retaliation that I’ve witnessed in my career,” Johnson said. “To have Ms. Kinsey arrested on baseless charges that were ultimately dropped by our former district attorney one day after she filed her discrimination complaint against the city and Mr. Zakhary is outrageous. Yet, this is the pattern that Yousry Zakhary has shown over the years – first as the self-proclaimed ‘King of Woodway’ - and now in Bellmead. The citizens of Bellmead deserve better than Yousry Zakhary.”

Zakhary did not return phone messages Monday seeking comment on the lawsuit. Bellmead City Attorney Charles Buenger said the city had not been served with a lawsuit, and therefore, he could not comment.

Kinsey was arrested on misuse of official information and breach of computer security charges in early February 2023, complaints that arose from the same incident that led to her arrest and suspension in August 2021.

Kinsey’s arrest in 2021 came one day after Kinsey, who was seeking the vacant police chief job, filed a harassment and discrimination complaint against Zakhary, who also was serving as interim police chief at the time. She was charged then only with misuse of official information, a third-degree felony. However, Bellmead police added the breach of computer security charge, a state jail felony, on her second arrest.

The McLennan County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charge against Kinsey on Dec. 28, writing on the dismissal notice that the incident failed to meet the statutory elements of a crime because there was “insufficient evidence of economic gain or advantage.”

Kinsey was arrested on the new charges a month after McLennan County District Attorney Josh Tetens took office. Tetens recused his office in the case and transferred the case to the Williamson County District Attorney’s Office. It remains pending.

Arrest records in 2021 alleged that Kinsey was trying to find out the identity of her estranged husband’s potential love interest by asking a Bellmead dispatcher to run a Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (TLETS) search for an Arkansas license plate on a woman’s car that was parked at her estranged husband’s home. An affidavit alleges Kinsey led the dispatcher to believe the information was work-related and was to be given to the chief.

Johnson also represented a Woodway city employee who alleged Zakhary sexually harassed her and fostered a hostile work environment. The then 17-year city employee settled her harassment lawsuit against Woodway in July 2018 for $50,000. Zakhary resigned the previous March as Woodway’s police chief and that April as city manager, after 39 years in Woodway.

Kinsey’s lawsuit begins with a summary of Zakhary’s lawsuit settlement and resignation from Woodway and alleges he has a long history of improper workplace behavior.

“For years, (Zakhary) has engaged in gender and/or sex discrimination in the workplace, turning local city governments in Central Texas into his personal playground,” the lawsuit alleges. “Defendant Zakhary’s pattern of behavior, including gender discrimination, sex discrimination and sexual assault, has left a wake of female victims in its path. Resigning from his position at one local municipality, Zakhary now continues his discriminatory and abusive behavior at the city of Bellmead, just ten miles away.”

The lawsuit claims that Kinsey, a 21-year law enforcement veteran, was the most qualified candidate for the open police chief’s job. It contends she was the only department employe with a master peace officer’s license and was a certified crime prevention specialist, hostage negotiator, Texas Commission on Law Enforcement instructor, certified mental health peace officer, standardized field sobriety instructor, jailer and court security officer.

She also received several commendations, including Officer of the Year, chief commendations, meritorious conduct and the department’s Humanitarian Award. In 2021, she also was named “Woman of the Year” by the Bellmead Chamber of Commerce, according to the lawsuit.

“Since almost the inception of Zakhary’s term as interim chief of police, he has employed a habitual history of discriminatory conduct toward one or more female employees, particularly against those most vulnerable and under his direct supervision and control,” the lawsuit alleges. Kinsey claims in the suit that Zakhary “consistently diminished or marginalized” her role at the city in favor of her male subordinates.

For example, the lawsuit alleges, Zakhary tried to “pressure” Kinsey to take Family and Medical Leave Act time off while she was going through a divorce “to negatively impact her employment status at the time and to jeopardize her position” with the city.

Also, Zakhary tried to “poison” city council members against Kinsey at a council retreat in November 2021 by telling them that two other male officers were more qualified to be the new chief, the suit claims. Zakhary also removed the master peace officer’s license requirement for chief applicants, “lowering the job standard for the sole benefit of male prospective applicants,” according to the suit.

“Zakhary also actively sought to discredit, defame and eliminate plaintiff’s employment altogether,” the lawsuit alleges. “Zakhary actively requested that city employees, including plaintiff’s direct reports, to report any ‘dirt’ on plaintiff. On information and belief, Zakhary told at least one city employe that he needed to find something on plaintiff so that Zakhary could simply get rid of plaintiff.”

Buenger, the Bellmead city attorney, has said two attorneys appointed by the Bellmead City Council to investigate Kinsey’s allegations against Zakhary “found no wrongdoing” on his part. Johnson disagrees.

“Zakhary’s shown a pattern of discriminatory behavior toward women,” he said. “And there are no shortage of witnesses against him. In this case, he admittedly ignored Bellmead Police Department policy when handling Ms. Kinsey’s complaint. We’ve asked that the City Council investigate his actions, but they’ve ignored our requests. We’ll be turning over our complaints concerning Mr. Zakhary to the Attorney General’s Office.”