Storm clouds of questions are gathering over the recent termination of Fort Worth Chief of Police Joel Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald was notified in a memo by Assistant City Manager Jay Chapa of his termination this past Monday. Chapa cited an “increasing lack of good judgement” and a “track record of making decisions that are more focused on your best interest.”

Among the actions cited in the memo were Fitzgerald confronting the president of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas regarding his expulsion, during an event honoring fallen police officers in Washington, D.C.; failing to address computer security concerns raised in an audit by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services, which Fitzgerald was allegedly warned about but failed to address; and “writing memos to yourself alleging discrimination or unfairness then refusing to move forward with investigations to address your allegations.” Chapa also mentioned Fitzgerald publicly accepting a position with the Baltimore Police Department during his tenure as police chief, a position Fitzgerald later refused, citing healthcare concerns of his son.

On Monday, after Fitzgerald’s termination, it was announced that Dallas lawyer Stephen Kennedy would represent Fitzgerald and has filed a formal appeal with the city attorney. Since then, Kennedy has alleged that the termination was retaliation for Fitzgerald whistleblowing on security issues in Fort Worth’s IT department—issues that sources have informed Texas Scorecard Fitzgerald himself would have been responsible for resolving.

Kennedy is also representing William Birchett, a former IT employee of the City of Fort Worth who alleges he was fired this year for reporting that the city’s computer network had been breached—a breach he claims resulted in over $500,000 of taxpayer money being stolen—and that the city was destroying evidence as part of a cover-up. Another Fort Worth IT employee recently filed a memo with city officials supporting Birchett’s claim of a cover-up.

The city’s IT director informed council this week that significant security improvements have been implemented, and the city has denied accusations of destroying evidence.

“I can only say that I look forward to the conclusion of the legal process so the truth comes out,” Councilman Cary Moon told Texas Scorecard when asked about the situation. “Expect your city to prevail. Due to the ongoing legal suit, mayor and council have been advised not to comment further.”

This is a developing story. Texas Scorecard will provide further updates as the story progresses.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.

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