BAT van whistle-blowers suing Harris County, District Attorney Pat Lykos

December 17, 2012 3:35:05 PM PST
Eyewitness News has learned the pair who first shed light on problems with HPD's blood-alcohol testing vans is now suing the Harris County and the district attorney.

They're calling themselves whistle-blowers because they were the first to bring attention to the problems with HPD's BAT vans, and now they say they've suffered greatly because of it.

Amanda Culberson and Jorge Wong say they have reason for filing a federal lawsuit against District Attorney Pat Lykos and Harris County.

"The unjust retaliation against me has cost me very dearly, and I want those responsible to be held accountable for their actions," Culberson said.

Culberson and Wong filed a lawsuit against Lykos, Assistant District Attorney Rachel Palmer, and Harris County. They argue Lykos and the county retaliated against them when they began voicing problems with Houston Police Department's breath-alcohol testing, or so-called BAT, vans.

"There are allegations that the district attorney's office under Lykos sought perjury charges under Culberson, and that will have a very chilling affect on the citizens," Their lawyer, Chip Lewis, said.

Lewis also pointed out last year after Wong and Culberson began working for Lone Star College on breath alcohol testing, the county commissioners voted to shift the contract from the Lone Star to state DPS. In effect, it cost the two scientists their jobs.

At the time, Judge Ed Emmett defended the move.

"My bottom line was if the district attorney's office and sheriff are comfortable moving to DPS, then I'm comfortable with that," Emmett told Eyewitness News in October 2011.

Emmett had no comment on Monday, and the lawsuit is still just in the beginning stages. But KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy says it's going to be a tough case.

"This may be trying to fit a round peg into a square hole for constitutional violations against the county," Androphy said.

Late Monday afternoon, Lykos issued the following statement:

    "It is disappointing that a wise decision of the Harris County Commissioners Court In October of 2011 is now being attacked in a baseless lawsuit.

    "This office recommended the selection of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to provide breath-testing services, rather than to continue outsourcing these responsibilities to non-law enforcement entities. Personnel turnover and unavailability of witnesses delay DWI trials, delay justice, and increase dockets. Prosecutors must have confidence in the professionalism, excellence, and integrity of its expert witnesses.

    "DPS is the state's premier law enforcement agency. Our office was pleased with the awarding of the testing contract to DPS, which is the authority and expert on breath-alcohol testing for the State of Texas.

    "Of immense importance to public safety is that any officer can now take a DWI suspect to the closest DPS-supervised test site in Harris County, (there are 21), and return to patrol quickly. Our citizens are safer by getting more drunk drivers off the streets and keeping more officers on the streets. We are assured of the science and that justice will be done. The Commissioners Court and the County Purchasing Office review bids and proposals, negotiate and make the decisions regarding contracts. The Court, in its exclusive and independent authority, voted unanimously to award the contract to DPS."


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