Man claims he was wrongfully terminated by Missouri City PD

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Aug. 28, 2012, 4:54am

HOUSTON - Willis resident Peter J. Paske Jr. alleges he lost his job with the Missouri City Police Department because he spoke out against alleged misconduct by high-ranking officials.

In a lawsuit filed Aug. 15 in the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, Paske claims he attempted to report Geanene Merritt, captain of MCPD's criminal investigations division, for apparent wrongdoing on numerous occasions, only to be demoted and ultimately terminated.

Paske had a 15-year career with the defendant, which the suit says included numerous accomplishments and accolades, ascending from an undercover narcotics position to CID sergeant.

The original petition explains that Paske wanted to be CID captain after the position was made vacant by a retirement, however, the defendant passed him over for Philadelphia native Merritt, who is not a defendant in the case.

According to Paske, Merritt was hired "despite numerous problems that were identified when the department conducted its requisite background check" on her.

The suit claims Merritt had a history of "significant" financial troubles as well as committed an on-the-job infraction which MCPD nonetheless overlooked, stating Paske was warned not to look into why he lost out to her for "he should not open that can of worms."

Paske alleges Merritt "quickly showed herself to be unworthy of the position of CID captain."

He maintains the captain inappropriately used her work time and lied about needing to take funeral leave to go to Philadelphia, but MCPD Chief Joel Fitzgerald gave her "numerous free passes" while he held him "to a much different, and harsher, standard."

The plaintiff eventually transferred from CID to the patrol division and continued to press for action against Merritt.

His efforts apparently earned him the ire of his superiors as he found himself the focus of an investigation which resulted him in being demoted to patrol officer, according to the suit.

Paske says the defendant ordered him to undergo psychological counseling and a drug test, but a medical emergency made impossible for him to fulfill the latter, which he unsuccessfully tried to explain to the chief.

MCPD later fired the plaintiff via email.

The suit asserts the termination in question occurred because Missouri City received a formal request for information about Merritt's misconduct under the Texas Public Information Act.

Consequently, the complainant seeks unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

Attorney Margaret A. Harris with Butler & Harris in Houston is representing Paske.

Case No. 4:12-cv-2450

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