Houston ISD has fired Chief Internal Auditor Richard Patton in what he claims is the ultimate act of political retaliation. Amid flying accusations and a lawsuit, the board of trustees decided against renewing Patton’s contract.
Patton’s contract, with an annual salary of $186,920, was set to expire on August 31. That same day, he was notified that the district would not be renewing his contract and was instructed to hand over all district property.
Patton was suspended in March after reporting the suspicious activities of some board members to law enforcement. HISD’s Human Resources department stated in a memo to Patton that his suspension was due to “allegations of misconduct.” HISD later explained that Patton had allegedly scanned personal documents on an HISD scanner. The former auditor and his attorneys maintain the suspension was retaliation for his whistleblowing.
After a five-month suspension and a $17,000 taxpayer-funded investigation, Patton was eventually reinstated. Upon returning to work, he filed a lawsuit against the district, claiming that they had unjustly suspended him as retribution for reporting their possible wrongdoing.
Patton’s lawyer, David Feldman, says that the district is doubling down on their retaliation by refusing to renew his client’s contract:
“In early August, Richard Patton filed a whistleblower lawsuit against H.I.S.D because his first suspension was clearly an act of retaliation. The Houston School Board has now responded by adding insult to injury. They have doubled down on the retaliation, and their campaign to silence the public’s watchdog.”
In addition to notifying HISD police and the FBI of possible criminal activity by HISD leadership, Patton gave a scathing critique of how the district handled school bond money in an audit last October. Patton’s assessment of HISD’s financial mismanagement and lack of planning was later corroborated by another third-party audit from the firm KPMG, with KPMG also adding that inflation was a key factor in the $211 million shortfall.
State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) has stepped into the fray, calling for, “the creation of more state offices of Inspector General to proactively investigate waste, losses to fraud, or worse in Texas government at the state and local level.” Bettencourt cited HISD’s handling of Patton as a reason why he feels more oversight is needed.