Angelina County whistleblower has history of alleged discipline issues at previous employment
LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - A former county employee who has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against his employer was cited and eventually fired for multiple alleged violations while working as a supervisor for the City of Lufkin.
Chuck Walker filed a lawsuit on June 3, alleging he was wrongfully fired after he reported criminal behavior by Pct. 3 Commissioner Terry Pitts.
Angelina County’s commissioners voted to fire Walker on March 22. The decision came after Walker was indicted on a charge of tampering with a government document.
Walker is accused of approving a false entry on an employee time sheet. However, he has claimed he was let go in retaliation.
Before he was hired as unit road engineer in October 2021, Walker was employed with the City of Lufkin and was fired in November of 2020.
KTRE received documents on disciplinary actions against Walker after submitting an open records request to the City of Lufkin.
The first such action occurred in February of 2018. A corrective action report from then-City Manager Keith Wright details how a city employee with the fleet department was applying for a promotion. The employee said Walker supplied him with copies of applications of two applicants for the position.
“[Redacted] had indicated to Arnold that he was nervous about possession the copies of his competitors’ applications, had so advised Walker and that he .. made clear to Walker that he was applying for the same position. [Redacted] further stated that Walker had told him he knew it and, that if he disclosed the fact that Walker gave him the copies of applications, Walker would deny it.”
The document states the applications had personally identifiable information that the city was under a legal obligation to keep confidential. Wright met with Walker and Walker offered to tender his resignation. Wright told Walker would not request his resignation, but he did remove Walker from some supervisory duties without reducing his salary.
A letter from Assistant City Manager Jason Arnold in October 2019 states Walker purchased 33 pairs of boots for his employees at the cost of $6,567.
“This is troubling for several reasons
- Primarily, it is a long-standing policy of the City of Lufkin to not provide work boots for employees. Upon questioning, every other department head within the Public Works division…confirmed knowledge of the policy. This is a policy Mr. Walker should be aware of.
- Mr. Walker made this large purchase without it being approved of during the budget process or by his immediate supervisor, me. Mr. Walker routinely requests permission to make purchases out of the norm, including the purchase of a striper he purchased around the same time of the boots for very close to the same price.
- City Administration has often denied past requests to purchase footwear for employees. The perception that City Administration made an exception for the Street Department and/or that unapproved purchases made outside of standard policy will be tolerate will add to tension in the workplace.”
Arnold then explained that from that point forward, all uniform purchases of any manner must be approved by Arnold.
In a memo from June 2020, Arnold states Walker had dirt and clay removed from a Lufkin Economic Development Corporation-owned property on State Highway 103 east of Lufkin, commonly referred to as “the race track.” The dirt and clay were hauled to repair seepage from the Ellen Trout Lake dam. Walker admitted to removing clay from the property and at first estimated the total number of loads to be between 20 and 30. Walker at first denied the removal affected the value of the property. Walker later estimated $2,100 worth of dirt was removed from the track.
A few days later, Arnold says Walker increased his estimate to 100 loads.
“I asked about the significant difference between the two estimates and Mr. Walker insinuated he was misinformed. As a result, I requested Mr. Walker refer to the daily driver logs for an accurate number. Upon arrival at Mr. Walker’s office, I was provided with a handwritten tally sheet indicating that over the course of four days, his staff transported 149 loads, therefor removing 2,016 cubic yards of dirt and clay. I estimate the total to be worth $18,748.80 to the Lufkin Economic Development Corporation.”
In the memo, Arnold again uses bulletpoints to describe the trouble of the incident.
“Removal of the dirt and clay without permission is theft,” Arnold wrote.
Arnold wrote he was instructing Walker to use funds within his department to pay LEDC a fair market price for the dirt.
In Walker’s termination letter, City Attorney Bruce Green wrote an investigation revealed Walker’s department contracted with Walker’s private company.
Lufkin Police Cpl. Kevin Jackson wrote in a memo he was asked to investigate multiple invoices from the street department showing funds paid to Lufkin Aftermarket Solutions. Jackson writes he learned Walker was possibly associated with the company.
“Charles welcomed me into his office and spoke with me freely. I asked Charles to verify the information I obtained from the Comptroller’s office and Charles said all the information was correct. When I questioned Charles about obtaining three written bids for the separate invoices, Charles could not provide them to me. I specifically pointed out the invoice on 11/16/2020, P.O. 36582 for $4,248, billed by Lufkin Aftermarket Solutions LLC. Charles told me he called around and got prices to places like contractor supplies, but ultimately ended up going with Lufkin Aftermarket Solutions LLC because they were lower. Charles showed me an Excel spreadsheet that had several different numbers spread about the page, but no names or organization to them. The title of the Excel sheet was not labeled. While Charles was trying to explain to me how he went about calling other places, Charles was typing in ‘contractor supplies’ into the Excel spreadsheet. I stopped Charles and told him he did not need to populate the Excel fields now, given the invoices had already been generated and processed.
I questioned Charles about his involvement and affiliation with Lufkin Aftermarket Solutions LLC. Charles said he “worked with those guys”. I asked Charles who the guys he was referring to was and he named [Redacted]. Charles spoke about working at Lufkin Industries with them in the past. I specifically asked Charles again what his affiliation with Lufkin Aftermarket Solutions LLC was and Charles said he was an “owner or part owner in the company”. I asked Charles if he profited from the business and Charles said at this point there is no profit being made in the company, rather staying afloat during the oil/energy crisis. I asked Charles if the money coming in from the City of Lufkin, specifically the invoices he approved, were benefiting the company he owned. Charles said ‘yes sir’. I asked Charles if he cashed checks, deposited checks, or was affiliated with the financial accounting aspect of the company. Charles said he does deposit, cash, and is listed on the Commercial Bank of Texas account for the company. I asked Charles if he was listed on the tax permit for the company. Charles said he did not know if he was or not. I told Charles, according to the Comptroller’s PIR, he was listed.”
None of the public information obtained by KTRE suggested that Walker tried challenging the disciplinary measures the city took. KTRE reached out to Walker through his attorney for comment or statement, but at this time we have not heard back.
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