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Policy: Law

Texas AG says employee’s suit doesn’t qualify under Whistleblower Act

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Abbott

Abbott

AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline) – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office is maintaining that a lawsuit against it by a former employee does not satisfy legal requirements under the Texas Whistleblower Act, even though two other courts have already said it does.

Abbott, the Republican candidate for governor, is asking the state Supreme Court to dismiss a 2009 suit brought by Ginger Weatherspoon, an assistant attorney general working in the OAG’s Child Support Division. She claims she was terminated because she spoke out against alleged illegal activities in the division. Whistleblower-define

She filed her lawsuit through her attorney Steven B. Thorpe on May 18, 2009, in Dallas County 68th District Court with Judge Martin J. Hoffman presiding.

In her original complaint, Weatherspoon alleges senior attorneys in the Child Support Division confined her against her will and made numerous attempts to “coerce perjured testimony” from her concerning 254th District Family Court Judge David Hanschen.

But Weatherspoon refused to sign the affidavit, saying it contained false statements about Judge Hanschen.

She claims she told her supervisor about the incident, but was eventually fired.

Trial court Judge Hoffman denied the OAG’s motion to dismiss, allowing Weatherspoon’s suit to continue as a whistleblower suit.

Abbott’s office fought the judgment, arguing to the Texas Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas on May 3, 2013, that the trial court erred when it concluded that Weatherspoon made a good faith report of a violation of law to an appropriate law enforcement authority and erred when it determined that it had subject matter jurisdiction.

The Fifth District appellate court denied the OAG’s motion for dismissal on June 16, 2014.

“(W)e conclude Weatherspoon has sufficiently alleged that she made good faith report of a violation of law by another public employee to an appropriate law enforcement authority.”

But on July 28, the OAG petitioned the Texas Supreme Court, arguing once again that Weatherspoon “should not receive whistleblower protection” because she didn’t report the incident to the proper authorities, only her supervisor, “who [did] not have authority to investigate or prosecute crime.”

“The text of the Whistleblower Act mandates that the report be made to an appropriate law enforcement authority, not an individual whose only role is to refer the report to someone else,” the petition states.

When she heard about Abbott’s appeal to the high court, Wendy Davis, Abbott’s Democratic opponent in the race for governor, issued a statement regarding what she calls his “outrageous logic” for appealing the case.

“Just to be clear, Greg Abbott isn’t disputing the fact that his employee was being forced to illegally sign a fake affidavit smearing Abbott’s political enemy or that she was subsequently fired for her refusal to go along with the smear,” the Davis campaign said in a statement.

“Abbott’s argument relies on a technicality, contending that the employee didn’t tell the right person that she was being forced to sign a fake affidavit smearing Abbott’s political enemy.”

Lone Star Project Director Matt Angle stated “It is shameful and pathetic that Greg Abbott had personal knowledge of an employee being harassed and fired and now attempts to silence her through the courts.”

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