Fort Worth

Judge denies restraining order over evidence in Fort Worth whistleblower case

In an affidavit, a city IT employee says she has “personal knowledge of widespread spoliation of evidence” by the city and/or its employees.
In an affidavit, a city IT employee says she has “personal knowledge of widespread spoliation of evidence” by the city and/or its employees.

A Dallas County judge Thursday denied a motion aimed at preventing the city of Fort Worth from destroying evidence in the case of a former city IT manager who has accused the city of retaliating against him.

William Birchett filed a lawsuit last week claiming he was fired after he alerted city officials to numerous data security problems, including the theft of city money. His lawyer, Stephen Kennedy sought a temporary restraining order against the city to prevent it from destroying evidence.

Kennedy in court and in his filing said evidence existed that the city deleted records related to Birchett and his claims. The allegation is based on a memo sent to city officials Monday from city IT employee Rabiah Memon, a senior IT programmer analyst with the city since May 2015.

Memon sent six letters to the city between March 15 and April 11 demanding that it preserve evidence, but Kennedy told the judge two employees had instant messages about the case deleted.

Memon wrote in a memo that some employees’ licenses were downgraded, which removes archives of instant messaging chats. The change, according to Memon’s memo, occurred after the city had received a preservation request from Birchett’s attorney.

Attorney Kelly Albin, representing the city, said that while one of Kennedy’s letters named specific employees whose records should be kept, the two employees Kennedy referred to in court were not mentioned in his letter.

“They’re saying the city never preserved those accounts, well they never asked us preserve those accounts,” Albin said.

Kennedy presented evidence from Memon’s memo that Kevin Gunn, the city’s IT director, had admitted to the deletion of certain messages.

That was not enough for Dallas County Civil District Court Judge Maricela Moore, who agreed with the city. Moore said Kennedy’s letters should have been more specific and that the information he sought should be requested in discovery.

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Luke Ranker covers the intersection of people and government focused on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. He came to Texas from the plains of Kansas, where he wrote about a lot, including government, crime and courts in Topeka. He survived a single winter in Pennsylvania as a breaking news reporter. He can be reached at 817-390-7747 or lranker@star-telegram.com.

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