The Daily Dawg post for December 19, 2019 told the story of Laurel Kash, who sued the Texas Education Agency after she was fired from her job as the state director of special education. Some of you may remember Ms. Kash, although she was only at the Agency for about three months in 2017. She filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General, claiming that she was fired for “blowing the whistle” on what she perceived to be an improper award of a lucrative contract to a third party.
She won. The OIG sustained her allegations and in a subsequent hearing an ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) ordered T.E.A. to pay Ms. Kash a bit more than $200,000. My Daily Dawg post about the case concluded with this:
This is not over. TEA raised numerous procedural arguments, ranging from sovereign immunity to lack of due process. This one may be appealed.
It was appealed, and T.E.A. won on the basis of its sovereign immunity claim. On March 23rd, the 5th Circuit reversed the big award and ordered that the case be dismissed. No cash for Ms. Kash.
Of course the parties were way apart on the reasons for Ms. Kash’s separation from the Agency. T.E.A. claimed that it had ample cause to fire her, whereas she alleged that it was all a retaliatory act because she reported what she believed to be gross mismanagement of federal money. This decision does nothing to sort out that factual dispute. Instead, the court’s decision offers a dry treatise on the ins and outs of sovereign immunity. I suspect that issue is not of great importance or interest to the typical Daily Dawg reader, so I think I’ll just leave it at that for today. The case is Texas Education Agency v. U.S. Department of Education decided by the 5th Circuit on March 23, 2021. The case is at 2021 WL 1100791.
DAWG BONE: WHO SAYS STATE EMPLOYEES NEVER GET FIRED!
Tomorrow: Some success for a whistleblower.