Outspoken campus policeman sues Galveston college over alleged civil rights violations

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Aug. 20, 2009, 8:00am

GALVESTON � A former College of the Mainland police officer accuses the school of encroaching on his First Amendment rights after he expressed concern about alleged misappropriation of tax money, recent court documents say.

In a lawsuit filed July 31 in federal court, Kent Dowdy explains that he was the target of a sexual harassment complaint he believes was filed in an effort to silence him.

"The defendant violated the plaintiff's First Amendment rights by disciplining him for exercising his right to speak on matters of public concern," the suit says.

Dowdy was vocally opposed to hazard pay to college police officers and aired his grievances to the COM board of trustees at its June 20 meeting, according to the original petition.

He claims a human resources employee confronted him after the meeting by telling him that "he should not cut his nose off in spite of his face."

Said employee then reportedly filed the harassment complaint, which the suit condemns as a ploy to get the Dowdy fired.

Dowdy successfully challenged the harassment allegations, but a recorded conversation between the plaintiff and a few colleagues about possible financial wrongdoing at COM earned him administrative leave without pay.

He had vowed he would address the board on the matter.

The Galveston County Daily News reported in an Aug. 17 article that Dowdy was indicted by a Galveston County jury for threatening another employee only to have the district attorney drop the charge.

The suit ultimately argues that the defendant neglected to give Dowdy substantive and procedural due process.

"The policy and practice by the college of protecting the complaint under the notion of protecting the complainer work to deprive the plaintiff of his rights and a meaningful name-clearing hearing," it says.

Represented by Galveston attorney Anthony P. Griffin, the plaintiff seeks damages for emotional distress.

U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal, Southern District of Texas, is presiding over the case.

Case No. 4-09-CV-2452

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