Former TDCJ director testifies he failed to investigate employee's discrimination claims

John Morgan

A retired Texas Department of Criminal Justice director testified this week that it was his "solution" to transfer former employee Bonnie Young rather than independently investigate her numerous claims against fellow TDCJ employees.

TDCJ is on trial for allegedly discriminating against Young, who alleges TDCJ supervisors retaliated against her for "blowing the whistle" on illegal activities.

Claiming she was threatened with termination if she disciplined a black subordinate, Young, a white woman, felt her supervisor was purposely trying to discredit and get rid of her so she could eventually be replaced by an African American.

On Wednesday, Oct. 28, Young testified that her TDCJ supervisors retaliated against her for reprimanding a black male employee, whom she alleges was using the inmates to build personal items for him.

She also testified that her supervisor told her to "back down" from the matter, but she refused.

On Nov. 3, Doug Dretke, retired director of the TDCJ Correctional Institutions Division, testified that he was aware of the controversy surrounding Young and made the decision to transfer her to a different unit, rather than independently investigate her claims.

When her position was finally taken from her, Young filed a suit against her former employer on Feb. 17, 2006, in Jefferson County District Court.

Court documents show that in the fall of 2003, TDCJ transferred Young to the Mark W. Stiles Prison Unit as an assistant warden to work under the direct supervision of then Senior Warden David Doughty.

In addition to other duties, Doughty assigned Young to assist in overseeing the prison's kennel and horse operations.

Her duties included supervision of the kennel sergeant, David Conley. Michael Simmons, another TDCJ officer, was Conley's assistant kennelman. Young contends that in March 2005, TDCJ's discriminatory treatment led to her transfer from the Stiles Unit to another prison.

According to court documents, Young filed a charge of discrimination on June 7, 2005, with the Texas Workforce Commission-Civil Rights Division, alleging Doughty removed her from her position based on her gender and race.

She also asserted that Doughty threatened to retaliate against her if she disciplined Conley, whom Young alleged made unfounded sexist and racist remarks about her with Doughty's consent.

Based on Conley's unfounded allegations, according to Young's testimony, Doughty wrongfully took disciplinary actions against her, ultimately resulting in her transfer to a less desirable position at another prison.

Dretkey testified that the transfer was his "solution" to the problem.

Young's charging documents also state that the harassment increased following her refusal to comply with Doughty's instructions on how to respond to an internal departmental investigation.

According to Young, soon after she began supervising Conley he began making threatening remarks about Young to another employee, which the employee reported. Despite Doughty's instruction that she not discipline Conley, Young issued Conley several reprimands based on his poor work performance and TDCJ policy infractions.

Then, in November of 2004, Conley filed a discrimination complaint against Young. Conley alleged that Young allowed another correctional officer to make racist remarks in his presence. Conley also alleged that Young and another employee were engaged in a sexual relationship. An investigation failed to substantiate Conley's complaints.

Doughty met with Young and told her that he did not allow such relationships. Doughty subsequently modified Young's job duties so that she no longer had supervisory responsibilities over the prison's kennel or field operations.

Young responded by writing Doughty, complaining about Conley spreading false information about her relationship with the employee and objecting to the modifications that Doughty made to her job, court papers say.

Young is asking jurors to award her damages for lost wages and mental anguish.

The suit also names Mosely, Conley and Doughty as defendants.

Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court, is presiding over the trial.

Young is represented by attorney John Morgan of the Lindsay & Morgan law firm.

TDCJ is represented in part by attorneys Allan K. Cook and Phillip E. Marrus.

Case No. A176-511

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