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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: Kenneth Steward became employed by the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department in 1990 and became a sergeant in 1999. On April 10, 2001, Steward filed an information report with the department that complained of possible wrongdoing in the department’s Law Enforcement Organization, a private entity. On June 4, he was given notice that he was being demoted for insubordination and conduct that would seriously impair his job effectiveness. The notice cited two instances of insubordination: 1. on May 28, 2001, Steward’s direct supervisor, ordered Steward to prepare a written report, but Steward submitted a letter requesting White put the order in writing; and 2. on May 30, White ordered Steward to comply with the previous order, but Steward provided White with a personal grievance instead. The personal grievance Steward gave to White complained that White told him his orders came directly from White’s supervisor. Steward also complained that he was being mistreated because of his support of and campaign for the LEO. Steward was demoted on Aug. 15, but after the grievance process, he was reinstated. Steward filed suit against the department based on the Texas Whistleblower’s Act. He alleged that an adverse employment action (the demotion) was taken against him for four instances where he reported a violation of the law: 1. the information he filed on April 10; 2. the personal grievance he submitted to White on May 30; 3. a conversation Steward had with a sergeant from the department’s Internal Affairs section; and 4. a conversation he had with a Texas Ranger about LEO’s alleged misapplication of money. The department filed a plea to the jurisdiction, which the trial court denied. The department filed this accelerated appeal. HOLDING: Reversed and dismissed. The court sets out the five elements Steward had to prove under the TWA: “1. he is a public employee; 2. he acted in good faith in making the report; 3. the reported involved a violation of law; 4. the report was made to an appropriate law enforcement authority; and 5. he suffered retaliation as a result of making the report.” With respect to the April 10 information and the conversation Steward had with a Texas Ranger, the court holds that the first element is not met. “Public employee” is defined as an employee or appointed officer who is paid to perform services for a state or local governmental entity. “Because LEO is not Steward’s employing governmental entity or a public employee, Steward’s allegation that he reported the misapplication of fiduciary property by LEO does not state a Whistleblower Act claim. For the same reason, Steward’s allegation that he reported the misapplication of funds by LEO to the Texas Ranger does not state a cause of action.” The court then examines the report Steward made to Internal Affairs. The court observes that this conversation took place after Steward had been given notice of his demotion, so Steward cannot prove causation under the Whistleblower Act for this incident. Then, the court looks at the personal grievance Steward filed with White, complaining of White’s conduct. The question, the court states, is whether Steward made filed his grievance in good faith with an appropriate law enforcement authority. The court goes through a line of state and federal cases to address the department’s argument that the grievance was merely a complaint to a supervisor about wrongful conduct, versus Steward’s argument that his grievance reported that White misused his office for his personal benefit. The court starts with Huffman v. Office of Personnel Management, 263 F.3d 1341 (Fed.Cir. 2001), which held that complaints to supervisor a supervisor about alleged wrongdoing were not protected by the federal Whistleblower Protection Act. The court next cites Rogers v. City of Fort Worth, 89 S.W.3d 265 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 2002, no pet.), which did not follow Huffman in a case where an employee complained to his supervisor about another employee. Similarly, in Robertson County v. Wymola, 17 S.W.3d 334 (Tex.App.-Austin 2000, pet. denied), which also concluded that the employee’s complaint to a supervisor about another employee’s conduct satisfied the requirements of the Whistleblower Act. The court distinguishes Huffman and Wymola because they involved complaints made by employees to supervisors about third parties, not about the supervisors themselves. The court finds no case law dealing with that specific question: “whether an experienced sheriff’s deputy who complains in a personal grievance to his direct supervisor, who is a law enforcement official, about actions taken by his direct supervisor has in good faith reported a violation of the law to an appropriate law enforcement authority.” The court finds that Steward must have in good faith believe that he reported a violation of the law to an appropriate law enforcement authority. According to Texas Dept. of Transportation v. Needham, 82 S.W.3d 314 (Tex. 2002), good faith means: “(1) the employee believed the governmental entity was authorized to (a) regulate under or enforce the law alleged to be violated in the report, or (b) investigate or prosecute a violation of criminal law; and (2) the employee’s belief was reasonable in light of the employee’s training and experience.” With that standard in mind, the court holds that Steward had knowledge of the appropriate method for reporting violations of the law, since he filed an information just days prior to filing his grievance. The court says that given the proximity in time between the filing of these two complaints, it holds that the personal grievance was not a report filed in good faith with an appropriate law enforcement authority. “We caution that our holding should not be read to broadly apply to all facts. In other circumstances, a personal grievance, even by an experienced law enforcement officer, may be shown to satisfy the requirement that the report be made in good faith to an appropriate law enforcement authority.” OPINION: Speedlin, J.; L�pez, C.J., Angelini and Speedlin, JJ. DISSENT: L�pez, C.J. “The majority distinguishes Wymola, concluding that Steward did not make a good faith report because he knew the proper method for reporting violations of the law and Steward was only seeking relief from White as his supervisor, not as a law enforcement authority. I disagree with this distinction.” The dissent points out that Steward was following the department’s internal chain-of-command procedure by first filing a grievance.

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