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Former Fort Worth police chief files suit against City

Joel Fitzgerald went from being the top lawman in the city of Fort Worth to a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the City.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Former Fort Worth police chief Joel Fitzgerald is fighting his termination with the help of attorney Stephen Kennedy. 

The suit was filed Thursday against the city of Fort Worth.

Kennedy said the former chief was given an ultimatum by the City on his last day.

"Take the money, be silent, and don't sue anybody or be terminated for cause," Kennedy said.

Kennedy and Fitzgerald are presenting the suit as a "whistleblower case." 

The suit reads Fitzgerald was "actively investigating violations of federal regulations." 

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He alleges the City lacked compliance with CJIS, or criminal justice information system. Fitzgerald says the city "destroyed documents" that were required to be maintained for public access, and that the city "falsely reported" to DPS that it was in compliance. The plaintiff maintains the firing was retaliation for blowing the whistle.

The suit also alleges that Fitzgerald and the Fort Worth Police Officer's Association were at odds during the former police chief's 3.5-year tenure. Kennedy said the main reason for the contentious relationship dealt with the discipline of nearly 50 officers.

"He tried to clean up the department," Kennedy said of Fitzgerald.

That is what may have precipitated the awkward and almost confrontational exchange at the Top Cop Awards event in Washington D.C. earlier this year. The exchange occurred between Fitzgerald, CLEAT president Tom Harrison, and FPOA president Manny Ramirez. Kennedy described the exchange as a stunt.

"The only spectacle is Mr. Ramirez trying to create a situation where none existed," the attorney said.

The City responded to the suit with this statement:

"The City continues to be fully prepared to defend itself against these absurd allegations. To be clear, the City has affirmed our CJIS certification with the Department of Public Safety. The City stands behind the decision to terminate the Chief’s employment."

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