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Texas Warden Axed for Whistleblowing Awarded $300,150

A Texas prison warden who was fired for reporting corruption was awarded $300,150.

Terry Terrell was warden of the Beto I Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) in Tennessee Colony, Texas. In May 1991, he wrote the Chairman of the TDCJ Board and then-Governor Ann Richards, accusing TDCJ Executive Director James Andy Collins of corruption including misappropriation of funds and falsification of payroll records. Two months later, Terrell was fired, despite an exemplary service record and a recommendation for promotion 6 months before his complaint.

Terrell sued in state court, alleging that he was terminated in retaliation for reporting extensive corruption. TDCJ claimed Terrell was fired because he was divisive. In 1993, a jury unanimously found for Terrell, awarding him $762,000, which included punitive damages of $250,000. The verdict was overturned on appeal, however, because of a faulty jury introduction. On remand, on July 7, 1997 a new jury again found unanimously for Terrell, awarding him $300,150.

Terrell was subsequently hired as the warden of a Louisiana private prison, earning in excess of $90,000 per year, while he made only $54,000 with TDJC. Andy Collins retired because of the Vita-Pro Investigation in 1995, and because of his purchase of $9 million worth of barbed wire, without competitive bids. He was later indicted and convicted but the conviction was set aside in a new trial. The Chairman of the TDCJ Board resigned at the governor’s request. Another TDCJ Executive Director and the TDCJ Internal Affairs Director also resigned at the governor’s request. Terrell was represented by Robert Thomas of Houston, Texas. See: Terrell v. Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Anderson Cty Dist. Ct. 349th , Case No. 97:00086.

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Related legal case

Terrell v. Texas Department of Criminal Justice