County employee blows whistle on commissioner, alleges violation of civil rights.

Carol Ostrow May 12, 2015, 7:56am


A Gregg County citizen brought a lawsuit against a county municipality and its elected leader for alleged wrongful termination in 2010.

Billy Hatten sued Gregg County, with headquarters in Longview, and John Mathis of Kilgore, individually and in his capacity as County Commissioner, Precinct 4, Gregg County; in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas May 1, claiming retaliatory action in a 2010 election matter.

Hatten alleges that he was unlawfully fired for political activity that is protected under the First Amendment. Defendant John Mathis was first elected to the post of County Commissioner in 2006 and re-elected in 2010, according to the suit. Hatten served as Mathis’ Administrative Superintendent at the time.

The filing states that Mathis initially did not intend to run for a third term and encouraged Hatten to run; then changed his mind and allegedly was unhappy about the competition. According to court documents, Mathis allegedly terminated Hatten following the election. Hatten’s specific severance date was not cited.

Arguing that running for office was not detrimental to public welfare, Hatten claims that Mathis abused his power.
Citing lost wages and benefits, the plaintiff seeks: injunctive action to prevent further acts of retaliation; compensatory damages; reinstatement or front pay; pre- and post-judgment interest; attorneys’ and expert witness fees; expenses, and costs.

Hatten is represented by Margaret Harris of Houston and Brian Sanford of Dallas.

Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas 2:15-cv-00601

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