Ellis County employee says she was fired for exposing waste

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on August 9, 2012 at 10:47 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 10 at 1:10 PM

ELLIS COUNTY - Alisha Wickens was hired to be the gate keeper over all purchases in Ellis County. But now she says she has been shown the door.

Fired by the Ellis County Judge, she said, after questioning the spending practices and the purchase of county equipment and supplies.

Wickens was hired by Ellis County Commissioners last summer to ensure county purchases were made responsibly. She had 20 years experience as a certified purchasing agent, and said she was able to achieve hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings after just a short period of time.

But when she questioned why one major contract kept getting bigger, without putting out for bids, she said her diligence was suddenly not appreciated.

"A contract cannot escalate to $1.6 million over three years, not legally,” Wickens said. “And when I brought that to the attention of the County Judge and Commissioners, I was told to leave it alone.”

Wickens said she was so concerned about how money was being spent, she took her concerns to the Ellis County District Attorney.

A few months later, Wickens got a letter from Ellis County Judge Carol Bush informing her she was fired. The reason, according to Bush, was Wickens’ "lack of knowledge regarding county government" and an "inability to get along with others."

Wickens has now filed a whistle-blower’s lawsuit claiming retaliation for trying to bring light to what she believes were "violations of various provisions of the Texas Local Government Code regarding purchasing and competitive bidding."

Wickens said her lawsuit is not only about her future, she's said it's about the citizens of Ellis County, whom she believes are not being protected by their elected county officials.

"You don't know where your money is going,” Wickens said. “You don't have affirmation that the law is being followed by those who have been entrusted to expend your money."

In addition to monetary damages and despite her bad experience, Wickens is asking for her old job back.

Judge Bush said now that a suit has been filed, Ellis County will have no further comment.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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