Two file suit on sheriff, court

Two former officers of the Erath County Sheriff’s Office have filed a wrongful termination suit against Sheriff Matt Coates and Erath County Commissioners in the Northern District Court of Texas-Dallas Division.

According to the court filings made last week, former Deputy Jason Upshaw and former Captain Randy Fowler are being represented by Frank Hill of Hill Gillstrap, P.C., in a suit against Coates in his individual and official capacity and commissioners Dee Stephens, Herbert Brown, Joe Brown and Scot Jackson in their official capacity.

The suit alleges that on Dec. 20, 2016, when Coates was made interim sheriff, he suspended the plaintiffs without pay because they were allegedly “under investigation.” The plaintiffs claim that they have never been told why they were under investigation and were escorted from the premises in a “hostile and humiliating manner, creating an impression of wrongdoing.”

The suit goes on to claim that the manner of their termination so stigmatized the plaintiffs that it caused them “severe emotional distress and mental anguish and employment opportunities have been substantially foreclosed” to them.

The suit also alleges that the plaintiffs were denied their first amendment rights through the adverse employment actions taken against them and their rights to due process, since they weren’t given a due process hearing before termination. (The suit also claims that they have been denied a hearing allowing them to clear their names.)

Upshaw and Fowler seek compensation damages against the defendants and damages as a result of mental anguish from the deprivation of rights and damages to their careers, lost wages and future earning capacity, as well as court costs.

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