Former parole officer claims termination from TDCJ due to race

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Feb. 25, 2013, 4:11pm

GALVESTON – A former parole officer is suing the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for allegedly terminating her because of her race. 

Galveston resident Ellen Mae Burton filed suit against TDCJ on Feb. 19 in the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas. Burton, who is white, alleges she experienced disparate treatment compared to her African American co-workers.

According to the suit, Burton began working for TDCJ in February 2004 and was employed as a specialized officer who oversaw the sex offender caseload.

In early 2012, TDCJ claims Burton used her authority as a parole officer to have a parolee sign temporary custody of her son over to a foster mother, according to the suit.

According to court papers, TDCJ disapproved of Burton interviewing the offender's minor child without representation, however she insists her actions were at the direction of the Galveston County Sheriff's Office Sex Offender Compliance Unit and that she also worked with Children's Protective Services. The boy needed to be in a safe place pending the arrest of his mother, the original petition states.

Burton asserts TDCJ failed to properly investigate her alleged violations and used them as "a mere pretext to have [her] terminated."

Meanwhile, several non-white parole officers at the Webster office committed "more serious" acts of wrongdoing, but were not disciplined as seriously as Burton, the suit states.

A disciplinary hearing was held on March 2, 2012, in which TDCJ moved to terminate Burton. She claims she submitted a resignation letter but it had "no effect on the negative entry into [her] permanent employment file."

Burton alleges the defendants acted against her as an act of retaliation.

A jury trial is requested.

Attorney Gerson D. Bloom of Galveston is representing Burton.

Case No. 3:13-CV-0041

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