GALVESTON – Alleging he was dismissed from his position as Fort Bend County deputy sheriff last year because he addressed a sub-committee of the Texas Legislature, William Butera has filed suit against his employer.

Butera's lawsuit against Fort Bend County argues that Sheriff Milton Wright terminated Butera over testimony the plaintiff gave to the Texas House Sub-committee on County Affairs in April 2009 regarding a proposed amendment authored by then-State Rep. Dora Olivo, D-Missouri City.

Court papers were filed Dec. 13 in the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas.

According to the original petition, Olivo invited Butera to testify on House Bill 1184 in his capacity as president of the Fort Bend County Deputy Sheriff's Association.

The proposed bill would allow a sheriff's department in a county with a population of more than 500,000 to create a civil service system, according to Texas Legislature Online.

Also present in Austin with the complainant was a representative from the Fort Bend County Human Resources Department, who testified in opposition of the legislation.

Butera claims he came back from the capital to news that Sheriff Wright was not pleased with his trip.

"Upon returning to work the following day, Butera was informed by Captain Jim Pokluda that Sheriff Wright was 'extremely mad' about Butera going to Austin and 'to stay out of his way for a couple of months,'" the suit says.

Butera further explains that in June 2009 he met with Wright, who openly and continually expressed his disappointment over the testimony and the plaintiff's alleged support of H.B. 1184.

The suit adds that Wright fired Butera that same month, but rescinded the termination upon Chief Deputy Craig Brady's request.

Despite the harassment in question, the plaintiff continued serving as both deputy sheriff and FBCDSA president through the remainder of 2009 and into 2010.

He was asked in late May of last year to return to Austin to meet with representatives of the Texas Municipal Police Association legislative committee about a bill similar to the one proposed by Olivo during the 2009 legislative session. The meeting was scheduled for June 2, 2010.

Butera never made the meeting as he was fired the day before.

"On June 1, 2010, Butera was ordered to report to Sheriff Wright's office and was told, 'your services are no longer needed,' and that he was terminated effective immediately," the suit says.

"No explanation was given and no disciplinary action was pending against Butera. Butera requested a reason for his termination and was advised by Sheriff Wright to 'have a nice day.'"

The plaintiff alleges that it is a deprivation of the First Amendment of the United
States Constitution to take adverse personnel action against an employee for exercising the right to organize and speak on matters of public concern.

Consequently, the complainant seeks unspecified monetary damages, a jury trial and the reinstatement of his job.

He is represented by attorney Gregory B. Cagle of League City.

U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt is presiding over the case.

Case No. 3:10-cv-00583

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