Contract investigators are not part of the County – Plaintiff entitled to better develop record when jurisdictional grounds challenged for first time on appeal.

Dallas County v. Logan, Roy, 05-11-00480-CV (Tex. App. – Dallas, January 9, 2014).

This is a Whistleblower case on remand from the Texas Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court summary is located here.  The Supreme Court resolved a split in the circuits and held that Dallas County could raise jurisdictional issues for the first time on appeal and is not limited to only what is contained with the plea. The Dallas Court of Appeals reconsidered its original opinion and issued this opinion reversing the trial court’s denial of the plea.

Logan was a Dallas County deputy constable who reported the Constable to the Commissioner’s Court for illegally requiring him to work volunteer hours, threatening him not to discuss matters of public concern, and favoritism. He was ultimately terminated and brought this Whistleblower claim.

The County first argued that the “investigators” who received Logan’s report were not governmental employees as they were investigative contractors brought in by the County to assist. Logan asserted he had a good faith belief the investigators could investigate criminal activity for the County and the Commissioner’s court could enforce such. He also reported to the County Court Judge. The court spends several pages simply going through all of the various grounds challenging jurisdiction and the counter-arguments and what is appropriate to consider on appeal. The court rejected the County’s arguments that elected officials were not “employees” and could not receive reports. However, they agreed that individuals, or committees, having merely a duty of reporting to a governmental entity are “part of” the entity, so the reports to contract investigators does not count. The pleadings supported a subjective good faith belief of a violation of law reported to the County Judge. However, the court agreed the evidence in the record was insufficient to establish an “objective” good faith belief the County Judge was actually responsible for regulating the laws at issue, other than to simply ensure internal compliance. But, since the objective belief argument was not raised until the appeal, Logan did not have sufficient opportunity to present evidence in response to support the objective prong. As a result, the case was remanded to the trial court to better develop the record.

If you would like to read this opinion click here.  The attorney for Logan was William J. Dunleavy. The attorneys for Dallas County were Barbara S. Nicholas, Jana Ferguson and Craig Watkins. Panel: Justices Moseley, Lang, and Myers.