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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Mike Parton and Donnie Sutton, Potter County Road and Bridge Department employees, got Texas jailer’s licenses so that they could oversee inmates assigned to the department to work. In early fall of 2002, Parton reported to Sutton that he (Sutton), Wayne Cowart and Roger Cumpston had committed theft by falsifying another employee’s time card. Parton also alleged that Cowart stole gasoline from the department. Parton claimed he made the complaint to Sutton because Cowart was Parton’s direct supervisor and because, as a holder of a jailer’s license, Sutton was authorized to investigated the reported violations. Parton was fired on Oct. 15, 2002. Parton then sued the county under the Whistleblower Act. Potter County filed a plea to the jurisdiction, saying Parton did not establish a claim under the Whistleblower Act, which the trial court denied. HOLDING:Reversed and rendered. The court points out that to be a valid claim under the Whistleblower Act, Parton would have to prove that he made a report of wrongdoing to an appropriate law enforcement authority. Generally, a governmental entity is an appropriate law enforcement authority if it is part of a federal, state, or local governmental entity that the employee in good faith believes is authorized to regulate under, or enforce, the law alleged to have been violated or to investigate or prosecute violations of the criminal law generally. Parton does not assert that the Road and Bridge Department is a proper law enforcement agency, but he does assert that he reasonably believed that Sutton was a representative of the sheriff’s department. The court further points out that whether Parton’s belief was reasonable depends on his subjective belief that either the report was being made to a person who was in a position to receive the report on behalf of the law enforcement authority, or that the person to whom the report was being made was authorized to receive the report on behalf of the entity. His belief would also have to have been objectively reasonable in light of the reporting his training and experience. The court notes that the mere allegation that Sutton had a duty to report criminal wrongdoing to the sheriff’s department for investigation and prosecution under the law, without more, did not constitute an allegation that Sutton was a representative of an appropriate law enforcement authority under the Whistleblower Act. Furthermore, Sutton was not a peace officer, was not functioning as a peace officer, was not an employee of the sheriff’s department, and was not acting in the capacity of a representative of the sheriff’s department. “Under this record, a reasonable person with Parton’s knowledge, training, and experience would not have believed that, under the circumstances presented, Sutton’s being licensed as a jailer vested Sutton with any more authority to investigate reported thefts committed by employees of the Department than Sutton would have had as a County Department Supervisor. The report to Sutton did not objectively constitute a report made to an appropriate law enforcement authority. Additionally, Sutton, as a person identified in Parton’s alleged report as a participant in the illegal activity being reported, would not be viewed by a reasonable person with Parton’s training and experience as a person in a position to receive, or be actually authorized by the sheriff’s department to receive, Parton’s report. That being so, Parton’s alleged belief that his report to Sutton was a report to a representative of the sheriff’s department was not objectively reasonable.” OPINION:Per curiam; Quinn, C.J., Reavis and Boyd, JJ.

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