ROUND ROCK — A former sheriff’s deputy has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Williamson County, saying he was fired in July because he reported that the sheriff had illegally used county workers and county money on his personal vehicle.
The lawsuit, brought by Brian Johns, the former president of the Williamson County Deputies Association, also claims that Johns was fired because he reported that the sheriff’s office was illegally wiretapping his attorney.
The county had not received the lawsuit and does not comment on pending litigation, said Connie Odom, a county spokeswoman.
Johns is seeking damages of more than $200,000 and up to $1 million in the lawsuit. His attorney, Randall Moore of Fort Worth, declined to comment Friday. Johns also declined to comment.
According to the lawsuit, he saw Williamson County’s fleet manager working on Sheriff Robert Chody’s personal Polaris UTV in February, the lawsuit said. He found out county employees had installed a county-purchased battery and kill switch on the vehicle, according to the lawsuit.
It said the Texas Rangers refused to get involved when Johns met with them in April to report what happened with the sheriff’s personal vehicle and also to report that the sheriff’s office had illegally wiretapped his attorney.
The lawsuit did not provide details about the alleged wiretapping.
Johns then reported the complaint about the sheriff using county money and county employees for his personal vehicle to County Attorney Dee Hobbs in May, the document said.
It said Johns’ attorney also reported the wiretapping violations to an assistant county attorney. Johns also requested that Hobbs recuse himself and/or refer the matter to the Texas Rangers because Hobbs represented Chody and “was involved in other activities with Chody that created a conflict of interest in this matter,” the lawsuit said.
After Johns made the report to Hobbs, he appeared at the meeting of the Commissioners Court on May 21 and read a statement opposing the renewal of the “Live PD” contract due to officer safety concerns, according to the lawsuit. “Live PD” is a television show that films the daily activities of officers.
After Johns spoke against the contract, he received texts from the chain of command at the sheriff’s office criticizing him for his comment, the lawsuit said.
Hobbs sent a letter to Johns’ attorney in June saying a county attorney’s investigation had determined that what Johns had reported about county employees working on Chody’s vehicle was true but that charges would not be pressed because Chody used his vehicle for sheriff’s office functions, according to the lawsuit.
It said that after Johns returned to work from vacation July 2, he was charged with insubordination and dereliction of duty and then was relieved of duty and driven home. The charges were not written, the lawsuit said.
“These charges were not valid and were actually made up in retaliation for Plaintiff reporting the illegal activities of the Sheriff and of WCSO (Williamson County sheriff’s office),” the lawsuit said.
It said Johns then received a call to report to work July 3 and when he arrived he explained how the charges against him were not true. Chief Deputy Tim Ryle fired Johns later that day, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit also said that Johns had previously questioned the legality of a decision made by Ryle. Ryle had ordered Johns in October 2018 to no longer hold property hearings to dispose of stolen vehicles, the lawsuit said.
It said that after Johns questioned Ryle about the legality of his decision, Johns also reported his concern about Ryle’s decision to Chody.
Chody then later confronted Johns — who was the president of the Williamson County Deputies Association at the time — about the association not supporting Chody politically, the lawsuit said. “Chody then sent a letter to Association Board members attempting to interfere and/or intimidate membership into supporting him politically, the lawsuit said.
It did not say when the letter was sent.
In November, Johns was moved out of his position in the organized crime unit and assigned all auto theft cases and a quarter of all other property crime cases, “which doubled the number of cases and amount of Plaintiff’s work in comparison to any other detective,” the lawsuit said.