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$187,000 Settlement for TX County Jail Administrator Turned Whistleblower

by Joe Watson

A former jail administrator in Bastrop County, Texas, agreed to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit for $187,000 against his old boss, a former sheriff who had pleaded guilty to charges of corruption and abuse of power. Charlie Littleton accepted the cash settlement—plus full retirement and healthcare benefits—in Travis County District Court in May 2008 after he accused former Bastrop County Sheriff Richard Hernandez of terminating him for speaking out against corruption in the sheriff’s office.

According to Littleton’s whistleblower suit, filed by his attorney Michael E. Lovins, Littleton first complained to Hernandez in 2001 about questionable activities in the sheriff’s office, including a shady transfer of money from one county account to another for which Littleton was asked to approve by Hernandez, but denied. Not long after that exchange, Hernandez rearranged the chain of command so that those involved in his various schemes no longer had to report to Littleton. Hernandez also installed a security camera outside Littleton’s office, according to the suit, and linked it to a closed-circuit monitor that Hernandez observed from his own office.

Two days after he provided an overview to the Texas Attorney General’s Office on Jan. 2, 2007, of Hernandez’s misdeeds—including an alleged enterprise using jail prisoner labor and materials from the sheriff’s impound lot to build mobile barbecue pits for Hernandez’s own profit—Littleton was fired.

After being indicted in mid-2007, Hernandez pleaded guilty in January 2008 to charges of corruption and abuse of official capacity. Former Bastrop County commissioner David Goertz also pleaded guilty that same month to abuse of official capacity after he allegedly dispatched jail prisoners to repair his fish pond and repaint his personal tractor to look like the General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard”.

Bastrop County denied the allegations in Littleton’s whistleblower suit, which was mediated in Travis County, and continued to deny them at the time of settlement. Despite the convictions of Hernandez and Goertz, the county never admitted any liability on its part for Hernandez’s and Goertz’s actions. The county also denied any wrongdoing in connection with Littleton’s termination.

In addition to the cash and benefits settlement awarded to Littleton, the county agreed to amend Littleton’s file with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to reflect an honorable discharge from his position as jail administrator. See: Littleton v. Bastrop County, Travis County Dist. Ct., 53rd (Tex.), Case No. D-1-GN-07-00987.

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Related legal case

Littleton v. Bastrop County