Embattled HISD watchdog to sue district

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ByTed Oberg via KTRK logo
Friday, August 5, 2016

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Auditor Richard Patton, an HISD watchdog, will sue the district, claiming he was punished for blowing the whistle on potential wrongdoing in the area's largest school district. The announcement came in a press release from Patton's attorney, David Feldman.

Patton was suspended in March for unspecified reasons. The district hired a law firm to conduct an investigation. That report has not been released, but the district ordered Patton back to work Wednesday.

Fedlman said at the time that Patton's responsibilities to be the district's watchdog had been diminished. The district said it was part of a reorganization, not related to allegations or investigations of wrongdoing.

VIDEO: HISD watchdog back on the job with shorter leash

According to a copy of the lawsuit to be filed Friday, Patton lost control of the Ethics & Compliance section of the audit department and lost supervision of several audits he was working on before his suspension this spring.

The lawsuit claims the move was designed to retaliate against Patton, who claims he reported violations of Texas law by district officials on 3 occasions.

According to the lawsuit, he reported improperly split job-order contracts to HISD police in September 2015. The lawsuit says Patton reported a possible Election Code violation against a school board trustee to the Harris County District Attorney in the Spring of 2016.

The lawsuit also says Patton informed district officials on March 7, 2016 that he had been in discussions with the FBI about issues he had reported.

VIDEO: HISD using taxpayer cash to hide trustee emails

Three days later, he was suspended.

No district official has been charged with a crime.

Before news of the lawsuit was released, an HISD spokesperson told abc13, "The district has gone out of its way to respect Mr. Patton's privacy ... and looks forward to the resolution of Mr. Patton's grievance through the normal channels."

It is unclear how the lawsuit will affect that process.

This report will be updated as soon as we get a response from HISD.