AG ruling makes Campbell’s grievance public
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Following more than 90 days of legal effort by the City of Liberty Hill to avoid turning over the grievance filed by former Police Chief Maverick Campbell, the Texas Attorney General ruled against the City, determining that it must release the information to The Independent.
The City sent the grievance to The Independent Aug. 13. (Read the grievance)
The Independent first requested the grievance in writing April 30 – three weeks after it was filed – when the City Council chose not to address the allegations made by Campbell.
The Council chose in May to hire an independent investigator to review the City’s internal investigation of Campbell at the time of his termination in March, and that investigator found “that the City of Liberty Hill followed its policies and procedures in taking the actions that it did to terminate the employment of Maverick Campbell.” After considering the report from outside investigator Bruce Mills at its May 26 meeting, the Council chose to take no further action, effectively closing the issue.
But Mills did not consider the grievance or interview Campbell as part of his investigation, relying only on the results of the City’s previous investigation.
City Council members refused to say whether they discussed the allegations in the grievance during executive session, but never took up the issue in open session.
The letter from the Texas Attorney General to the City, dated July 13, dismissed the exceptions cited in the effort to withhold the information from the newspaper.
One cited exception was to protect the city in the case of potential litigation by forcing the other parties to seek the information through discovery procedures.
But in the response, the AG states, “Although the city asserts it reasonably anticipates litigation based on the receipt of the grievance at issue, we note the grievance was filed by the opposing party to the anticipated litigation. Thus the opposing party has seen or had access to the information at issue.”
The second exception sought addressed “the doctrine of common law privacy, which protects information that is highly intimate or embarrassing, the publication of which would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person, and not of legitimate concern to the public.”
But the AG found that “the public has a legitimate interest in information that relates to public employees and their conduct in the workplace.”
In conclusion, the AG wrote “the city has not demonstrated any portion of the submitted information is highly intimate or embarrassing and not of legitimate public concern.”
The City was also rebuffed in its ongoing battle with Campbell over his termination, when the Texas Workforce Commission – following an appeal hearing – ruled in favor of Campbell who was seeking unemployment benefits.
The ruling from TWC stated “the claimant’s (Campbell’s) firsthand testimony did not reveal any misconduct and the employer failed to carry its burden of proving any acts of misconduct. Under these circumstances, the Tribunal must conclude that the claimant was not discharged for misconduct with the work under Section 207.044 of the Act. Therefore the determination dated March 23, 2020, allowing benefits without disqualification under Section 207.044 of the Act, will be affirmed.”
Editor’s note: The Independent made the decision to publish the grievance in its entirety after the City Council decision not to give consideration to any of the allegations made by Campbell in his grievance, effectively choosing to conceal the allegations from the public. At the same time it withheld allegations regarding Mayor Rick Hall, the City willingly shared, and at times offered details of its own investigation regarding Campbell’s conduct.