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The Texas Whistleblower’s Whistle Did not Blow Against TAMUK

Gertrud Moreno was an assistant vice-president and comptroller of Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK). She claimed that her supervisor, Thomas Saban, terminated her after she reported to TAMUK’s president that Saban’s daughter received in-state tuition in violation of state law. After being fired, Moreno sued TAMUK alleging violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act.

Elements of the Texas Whistleblower Act

The Texas Whistleblower Act was enacted in 1993 to guard public employees who, in good faith, report violations of law by their co-workers or employer to an appropriate law enforcement authority. The act guards the whistleblower from retaliatory acts such as termination, demotion and harassment by the employer.

A few important factors from the law that need to be emphasized include:

  • Only public employees are protected
  • A report of violations must be made in good faith
  • The report must be made to a proper law enforcement authority

Texas Supreme Court Dismissed Moreno’s Suit

The court determined that Moreno’s report of her supervisor’s in-state tuition fees was not a good faith report of a violation of law to a proper law enforcement body. The court reasoned that the whistleblower’s report must be to a body that possesses the authority to investigate, prosecute and enforce violations of law against parties outside of the entity or to enact regulation to govern the conduct of third parties.

The Texas Supreme Court determined that the report to TAMUK’s president did not fulfill the elements of The Texas Whistleblower Act. While TAMUK’s president possessed the authority to foster adherence to university regulations and tuition, the president did not have the power to investigate and prosecute violations of law against third parties. Therefore, Moreno’s complaint to TAMUK’s president was deemed an internal report to a superior lacking any true law enforcement authority.

A Narrow Future for The Texas Whistleblower Act

To be protected by the Texas Whistleblower Act, you must be a public employee and report the violations to someone outside of your company or agency that has real law enforcement authority.  Reporting to a supervisor is simply an internal report to a compliance authority. If you have any questions about your role as a whistleblower, contact a Texas whistleblower lawyer.

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