Brazoria deputy alleges termination due to workers' comp claim

By John Suayan, Galveston Bureau | Jan 18, 2011

GALVESTON - A former Brazoria County sheriff's deputy claims that he was terminated in retaliation for filing a workers compensation claim after being injured on the job, recent court documents say.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 10 in the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas, Mark Wiggins accuses the Brazoria County Sheriff's Department of "using false accusations of misconduct to concoct a pre-text to terminate him."

The complainant insists that the law enforcement agency dispatched him to a public intoxication call two years ago as a way to get him fired, the suit argues.

Wiggins worked for the defendant for 13 years prior to the alleged incident. Before the plaintiff was dismissed, he had twice been injured in the line of duty.

The most recent injury occurred on Aug. 8, 2009, when Wiggins attempted to make an arrest after a disturbance call. He reported the injury to the sheriff's department the next day in an effort to receive medical treatment by way of workers compensation insurance.

After filing the necessary documentation, a dispatcher called Wiggins to assist the West Columbia Police Department with an allegedly intoxicated person on the San Bernard Bridge.

"Unknown to the plaintiff at the time, this call was an invitation to a trap set by the Brazoria County Sheriff's Department so that it could have a pre-text for firing the plaintiff," the original petition says.

It further explains that Wiggins "performed his duty properly by concluding he should arrest the person for public intoxication as opposed to driving while intoxicated because he personally did not see the suspect driving the car."

The arrest reportedly angered Chief Deputy Jeff Adkins, who demanded Wiggins "resign or he would never work in law enforcement again," the suit says. In response, the complainant declined to resign under the threat.

"Because he would not resign after he was threatened, the termination was accompanied by a dishonorable discharge," the suit says.

Wiggins was then accused of four violations, which he asserts were not true. He believes the defendant broke its own policy by not formally informing him of an internal affairs investigation.

His subsequent request for an appeal of his termination on Aug. 13, 2009, went unanswered, the suit says.

He adds the hearing officer from the Texas Workforce Commission tribunal cleared him of any misconduct.

The suit ultimately states that Wiggins had not been able to obtain employment as an officer because of the dishonorable discharge.

Consequently, he seeks unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

Attorney Nicola Thompson Drake of Houston is representing Wiggins, and U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt is presiding over the litigation.

Case No. 3:11-cv-00031

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