NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES
The state ruled Wednesday that Tarrant County must release the results of an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against District Attorney Joe Shannon.
Last September, the county shelled out $375,000 to settle with a former female employee who said Shannon sexually harassed and retaliated against her. Since that time, the county has spent another $100,000 to keep any details of the complaint a secret.
The allegations were first made public in September when Tarrant County Commissioners quietly agreed to pay a former assistant district attorney to drop her complaint against Shannon, who was her boss
When the media asked commissioners for documents related to an internal investigation justifying the payout, they refused, and appealed to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Now, nearly four months later, Abbott has issued a ruling.
While some of the information must remain confidential, the results of the county's investigation must be made public, Abbott said.
Dallas attorney Bob Hinton said he was retained by concerned residents of Tarrant County to fight to ensure that any allegations against the DA were made public.
"They are doing things that are blatantly violative of the public's right to know; to try to cover something up that the public does have a right to know,” Hinton said.
Hinton said he's troubled that Tarrant County Commissioners have spent nearly a half-million dollars of the public's money without explaining why.
“Obviously there is something very embarrassing, very amiss, something very horrible about the relationship between this complainant and Joe Shannon that the commissioners are using public money to erase," said Hinton.
Neither the Tarrant County Commissioners nor the DA agreed to comment on Abbott’s ruling. But the district attorney’s spokesperson, Ashley Fourt, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last week, "the nature of the alleged harassment ... is of an intimate nature and clearly not the public's concern." Fourt added that “all claims have been vigorously denied and disputed."
It’s not clear when any details of the settlement or investigation will be made public. The district attorney’s office said it may appeal any portions of the attorney general's decision which it disagrees with.