Whistleblower trial date set in Deep East Texas DPS troopers suing DPS

Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 1:22 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 31, 2021 at 9:02 PM CST

NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - After two years, a group of highway patrol officers once stationed in Nacogdoches and Center may have their Whistleblower Act lawsuit heard before a jury.

This week a federal judge ruled four DPS troopers have at least some claims worth hearing before a jury. The standout allegation is their supervisor, Sgt Robert Shugart implemented a traffic stop quota system first in Center and then in Nacogdoches.

Their attorney, Tanner Franklin, says the argument is cut and dried.

“The law makes traffic ticket quotas and arrest quotas illegal,” he said.

Furthermore, he said the sergeant was observed by his bosses offering monetary prizes to troopers who reached their quotas.

“And that’s exactly what these troopers reported was occurring in Nacogdoches and other duty stations in Deep East Texas,” said Franklin.

Franklin can argue retaliation, including reassignments to stations far from troopers’ home and family.

“The defendants have tried at least three separate times to get this case dismissed and each time the court has largely rejected those attempts,” said Franklin.

However, some claims under the Texas Whistleblower Act were rejected, including ones made by a fifth trooper who joined the case late. The court finds he didn’t follow procedural prerequisites.

Franklin is disappointed, but not discouraged.

“The case itself is going forward and is going to get presented to a jury of East Texans,” said Franklin.

And the outcome, whether made by a jury or a possible settlement, could influence the actions of DPS superiors and troopers statewide.

Franklin says he’s asking for due compensation for what his clients went through. he did not name a dollar amount. The trial date is February 22 in federal court in Lufkin. Meanwhile, one trooper left DPS for another agency, another is retired, and two transferred to the commercial vehicle enforcement division. sergeant Shugart was suspended without pay for three days and continues his duties in the Nacogdoches station.

The DPS media office was contacted. The offices were closed for the holidays. The agency has not commented on this particular case in the past.

Copyright 2021 KTRE. All rights reserved.