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Texas Juvenile Justice Whistleblower Settles for $175,000

On the eve of trial Bowie County, Texas and Bowie County Juvenile Center (BCJC) employee Bruce Ballou agreed to pay former BCJC employee Karen Foster $175,000 to settle her whistleblower complaint in federal court.

The action was filed by Karen Foster, a 29 year employee with the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission (TJPC), who was the Assistant Chief Juvenile Probation Officer. She was contacted by a detective of the Texarkana Police Department on April 11, 2005, about a child hurt at Bowie County Academy. The child’s face had been scarred during restraint.

Foster’s investigation revealed that Ballou was aware of the incident and ordered it and others not be reported to TJPC, which was a clear violation of Texas law that requires all allegations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation be reported. When confronted by Foster with this information, Ballou became upset and assaulted her.

Ballou then took action to fire Foster, but was only able to demote her. Foster’s grievance to TJPC was dragged for months without resolution and TJPC hired someone to take Foster’s position while her grievance was pending. In the interim, an investigation found signs of abuse at the Academy, resulting in a short suspension of Ballou.

The TJPC was more concerned with possible litigation after Ballou admitted at a grievance hearing that he had been on a “witch hunt” to fire Foster. After it appeared no resolution would come and her job was already filled, Foster filed suit in federal court. The settlement came on December 28, 2006. See: Foster v. Bowie County, Texas, USDC, E.D. Tex, Case No. 2-05-CU-526

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Related legal case

Foster v. Bowie County