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Discrimination on governor's security detail costs Texas taxpayers

AUSTIN -- Taxpayers are on the hook for nearly $900,000 in damages and lawyers' fees after a jury found that an African-American state trooper who served on the elite detail that protects Gov. Rick Perry was subjected to on-the-job racial discrimination and retaliation, including demotion and a cut in pay.

A state district judge is expected to sign off on the jury's award to Sgt. Thomas Lee Williams of the Texas Department of Public Safety after lawyers from both sides submit the last of their routine paperwork to the court on Monday. The Texas attorney general's office is expected to appeal the verdict and the DPS has denied the allegations.

Williams, a 12-year DPS veteran, brought the suit after being disciplined and reassigned from the governor's protective detail ostensibly for lodging formal complaints of discrimination against minority troopers in the detail and for reporting what he considered sexually harassing behavior by a male trooper against a female trooper who were both assigned to protect the governor and his family.

"I mainly filed this lawsuit because I felt that I'd been harmed," Williams said after a hearing in state District Judge Stephen Yelenosky's court in Travis County. "I knew I'd been harmed. When I brought this up to my agency, I felt they didn't do the right thing."

The jury awarded Williams nearly $520,000 in lost wages plus $100,000 for mental suffering. His lawyers are due more than $260,000 for their work preparing for a two-week trial that ended last month and received little public attention.

During the trial, the governor's wife, Anita Perry, gave testimony by videotape saying that she and Williams had had a brief conversation about why the trooper was not serving other protective detail as often as some of his colleagues.

Philip Durst, whose firm represented Williams, said the trooper's supervisors had used the conversation as part of the basis for giving Williams unfavorable employee evaluations after compiling an otherwise unblemished career record with DPS.

"Thomas had a spotless record after years and years at DPS," Durst said. "He complained about some sexual harassment that was going on. ... He complained about why there weren't more minorities and women on the governor's protective detail, and then the write-up machine goes into overtime. He was written up 20 times over the next couple of months, and then removed."