Texas Supreme Court says internal complaints insufficient for jurisdiction over Whistleblower claim

 

CANUTILLO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT v. FARRAN , No. 12-0601 (Tex. August 30, 2013)

This is a Texas Whistleblower Act lawsuit in which the trial court granted the Canutillo Independent School District’s (“CISD”) plea to the jurisdiction and Farran appealed. As the Executive Director of Facilities and Transportation for CISD, Farran alleges he observed employee theft, falsification of time cards, and overpayment to a certain contractor who was not disposing of grease-trap waste properly under state law. He reported these to the District superintendent, assistant superintendent, auditor, and school board. Afterwards, the superintendent questioned Farran about phone calls to a specific individual believed to be having an affair with Farran’s wife. Farran denied making the calls but was suspended and ultimately terminated with a letter citing eight specific grounds, subject to a due process hearing. Afterwards, Farran reported the grease-trap issue to the FBI. Farren then had his hearing at which the hearing officer recommended termination, which the board approved. Frarren filed suit but the trial court granted CISD’s plea. The court of appeals reversed on the Whistleblower claims and the District appealed.

CISD asserts the complaints were not good faith complaints to an appropriate law enforcement authority. Farran did not offer any evidence the officials who received the reports for anything other than internal complaints (including the Board). The Board and officials had no authority to govern third parties outside the organization. The report to the FBI came after Farran received is notice of termination subject to a due process hearing and therefore could not have caused his termination. As a result, he did not present evidence to establish the jurisdictional requirements under the Act and the plea was properly granted.

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