Two former Parker County Precinct 4 employees have filed discrimination complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after they were terminated by Commissioner Steve Dugan last month.
Jennifer Thompson was hired as the research coordinator for Precinct 4 on Oct. 16, 2013, and was terminated on Sept. 30. Thompson filed her complaint with the EEOC based on her gender.
Kyle Boatright was hired in October 2007 and was in the position of Operator II and then Operator I in Precinct 4 before he was terminated on Sept. 4. Boatright filed his complaint with EEOC based on retaliation and the color of his skin. Boatwright listed his ethnicity as mixed white and Hispanic.
“My main concern is that we were 100 percent discriminated against. Kyle being the only minority out there and then me being the only full-time woman there, we had been there many many years and the only thing they can tell us is that they’re an at-will employer and don’t have to have a reason to fire us? I don’t agree with that,” Thompson said. “Show me justification that I’m not worthy of my job. I have a college education, I have six years’ worth of learning things in the county, I think my job is justified. The only reason I feel like I got fired is because I made it clear about what was going on at Precinct 4.”
Thompson sent the Weatherford Democrat additional documents that showed she was also furthering her education while at Precinct 4 and received three certificates from Hill College in basic management skills, management and advanced management skills in May, but in her EEOC complaint wrote that she began receiving pay cuts.
Boatright said he was terminated immediately after making a complaint to his supervisor.
“I haven’t had any write-ups since 2012 and in fact, for the past four or five years I’ve actually been getting substantial pay raises and basically they would pull me into the office and tell me what a great job I’ve been doing, how I’ve been improving over the years, how I deserve this much of a raise,” Boatright said. “I don’t understand how all of that was going on just fine and then out of nowhere I go and talk to my supervisor about a complaint I’m making in good faith, that I firmly believe — it’s a conflict of interest in what was going on — and the next day I’m immediately terminated, and was not given a reason on why I was terminated.”
The conflict of interest Boatright and Thompson claim has to do with Precinct 4 employee Ronnie Corder.
According to County Benefits Coordinator Becky McCullough, Corder was hired on June 19, 2017, and was promoted to lead operator on Oct. 1.
Dugan requested to create the new position of lead operator during budget workshops this year, which was then approved by the commissioners at the Aug. 28 budget workshop meeting.
“That position was not negotiated for anyone other than Ronnie Corder. Not only does Ronnie Corder and Steve Dugan have an outside relationship personally, but they also have a business relationship,” Thompson said. “The position was specifically created for Ronnie due to the fact that he has made it widely known that he’s running for county commissioner.”
Boatright said he had made that complaint to his supervisor.
“[The complaint was] Ronnie Corder getting that position, about him being a good friend and business associate outside of work,” Boatright said. “I was fired not even 16 hours after I talked to my supervisor.”
Dugan said he can’t discuss information about employees and doesn’t know anything about the EEOC complaints.
“I don’t know anything about it. We don’t talk about employees anyways, especially termination,” Dugan said. “I’m not going to answer any questions about anybody that works for me — the county attorney can answer all that or HR can. I haven’t seen [the documents], don’t know anything about them.”
The Weatherford Democrat was unable to obtain contact information for Corder.
Although the claims were filed, County Attorney John Forrest said the county has not received any information from the EEOC and until an investigation is opened, they can’t speak specifically to the complaints.
“Just the fact that [EEOC] received [the complaints] doesn’t give it any validity. The problem is once they finish with EEOC, they go to litigation and sue the county and to protect the county, we can’t try a case in a newspaper, it’s going to be tried in court,” Forrest said. “So [county officials] are instructed not to visit with reporters because ultimately their statements should be made in deposition if those individuals decide to file civil litigation. It doesn’t behoove the commissioner or any of those guys to make statements short of there being litigation. If another party is making allegations, it doesn’t make it true, anybody can do that.”
Thompson said she took her complaints to County Judge Pat Deen before filing with the EEOC and Deen confirmed he met with Thompson and Boatright.
“Both individuals came to my office, but that’s a Precinct 4 commissioner’s concern because the elected officials are the domain of their respected office. I can’t encroach into it,” Deen said. “If there’s been complaints filed with the EEOC, I’m sure it will run its course and due diligence will be done with it. I have no other comment related to another elected official’s office. That’s their issue to deal with. Both former employees did come to me, approached my office, and as I told them, there’s nothing I can do, it’s up to them when it involves another elected official. I have no authority and nor should I.”
Thompson and Boatright said they have interviews scheduled with the EEOC next month and from there the EEOC will make a decision on opening an investigation into the allegations.
“They absolutely had zero reason to terminate me other than retaliation. I am well known in the county as far as my work ethic goes and with the manipulation that’s been going on for the last six months, I’m ready to make a stand,” Thompson said. “I am there to work for the taxpayers, I am not there to work for Steve Dugan per se. The taxpayers need to know what goes on behind closed doors.”