Saturday, October 12, 2013
Ex-TDCJ Public Information Officer files appeal in suit against former employer
Michelle Lyons, who once composed the front line for the agency in matters regarding the media, has filed an appeal to the US 5th circuit court where her case is now being heard for gender discrimination. Lyons, who left the agency after being the center of retaliation and harassment by the agency after bringing forth information of wrongdoing to her superiors almost two years ago, was confident she would still have her day in court to describe her employment with the agency.
The US District court hearing her case made a summary judgement and dismissed the case. Attorneys for Lyons immediately filed an appeal to the court to keep the case active. A decision is still pending.
The Huntsville Item newspaper released a story about the case on October 8th where they spoke about the dismissal, but not the appeal. No information on a source for the story was listed in the article, but sources tell the Backgate that present TDCJ PIO Jason Clark provided the information to the Item news through his office. Clark, who worked under Ms. Lyons during the alleged discrimination, is also listed in her lawsuit against the agency. The Backgate attempted to contact the reporter at the Item who wrote the article to verify but have received no response to date. Yesterday the Item published another article as an update to the first on the case that now includes the perspective of the Attorneys representing Lyons. The Backgate spoke with Ms. Lyons on October 9th regarding her case and she verified that the Item had never called her or her attorneys for a statement on the first story.
Lyons had been removed from her position as Director for public information with the agency after TDCJ stated that they had found a "discrepancy" on her time sheet she filed, she was subsequently demoted to a position that paid $14,000 less per year then her original position. That discrepancy, which was a method of time reporting done by several other employees and supervisors for years, didn't benefit the employees due to the fact that they were not payed overtime and were salaried employees. A fact said to have always been known and accepted by the administration.
We believe the real reason Lyons was targeted was due to the fact that she, within the scope of her position, was issuing statements officially requested through the proper channels to this website for use in web stories. " Ms. Lyons was courteous, professional and never appeared to be hiding any information we were seeking through the proper channels within the PIO department" said Duane Stuart, the Backgate's site manager. " Apparently TDCJ looked down upon the fact that she was providing the information to us due to our longstanding reputation of providing TDCJ employees, as well as the taxpaying public and Legislators, with the good, the bad and the ugly occurring within the agency. I feel the actions against Ms. Lyons were based solely on that fact and not on the basis of some constructed disciplinary charge filed against her for improperly reporting of her time. It's obviously part of the common practice of the TDCJ to single out and retaliate against those employees who pose an issue to their widespread corruption and corrupted practices." Stuart went on to say.
We have also reached out to Mr. John Hurt, who briefly also held the TDCJ PIO position following the removal of Michelle Lyons. He is now no longer a TDCJ employee. See what he had to say about it all coming up soon!