Collin County won’t release report on sexual harassment lawsuit — but a tweet might change that
Collin County refused to release an external investigation of the allegations in a lawsuit against the district attorney. But plaintiffs’ attorneys say the county judge’s public statement could change that.
The lawsuit was settled Monday for $1.75 million after attorneys for the plaintiffs filed a five-page amended complaint last week. The original petition, filed Oct. 31 in federal court, was 75 pages long. It alleged that Willis sexually harassed “many female employees.”
The county hired a legal firm to investigate those allegations. County Judge Chris Hill alleged in a statement shared on his social media and in emails to the press this week that the investigation found “numerous inconsistencies” in the original filing. He also said the claim that he and the county commissioners were aware of the allegations in the suit and chose to not act was false.
“Multiple employees directly disputed many of the allegations contained in the lawsuit,” he said.
Charles Soechting is an attorney for the plaintiffs. He said Hill put the investigation in the public domain, something he said waives privilege. He also said the tweet violated a good faith agreement between the parties to not release the names of the Jane Does in the case unless someone filed an open records request. Hill posted a page of the settlement that contained their names in his tweet.
Hill referred KERA to his previous statement about the lawsuit when asked for comment via email. He said he didn’t know if the county would release the investigation. Rogge Dunn, an attorney for Willis, did not respond to KERA’s request for comment before this story was published.
An attorney for the plaintiffs filed an open records request for the investigation report in November according to documents obtained by KERA. But the Attorney General’s Office ruled in February that the county could withhold the report because of attorney client privilege.
JoDee Neil, another attorney for the plaintiffs, asked the Attorney General’s Office on Thursday to release the report. She argued that Hill’s public post on Twitter about the contents of the investigation waived his attorney client privilege.
“He openly comments on the contents of the report and even goes so far to say that the report found the claims to be baseless, among other things,” Neil said.
Soechting said that he and the plaintiffs’ other attorneys believe the defendants settled because they didn’t want the investigation to become public – something that would’ve happened in discovery if the case had gone to trial.
“If it supports them, they would put it out,” he said. “If it doesn't support them, they're going to try to hide it.”
Got a tip? Email Caroline Love at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caroline Love is a Report For America corps member for KERA News.
KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.