Former Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald told NBC 5 on Sunday he was fired for trying to report corruption at city hall.
Fitzgerald had opened an investigation into allegations that unauthorized city employees were accessing the National Crime Information Center, a sensitive federal law enforcement database. Fitzgerald was fired by City Manager David Cooke in May, two hours before he was to meet with the FBI to provide details of that investigation.
“I was terminated because I was giving information – about to meet with the FBI,” he told the TV station. “They didn’t want that to happen.”
Cooke said Fitzgerald was fired because managers lost confidence in his leadership and Cooke questioned his loyalty to Fort Worth after Fitzgerald applied to take the police chief job in Baltimore.
Fitzgerald filed a lawsuit in June that alleges he was offered cash if he would agree not to sue the city or provide support for others suing the city for whistleblower violations. According to the lawsuit, Fitzgerald was told he would be fired with cause if he did not agree. He chose that option and was terminated, according to the complaint.
Cooke and Mayor Betsy Price have said there is no factual basis for Fitzgerald’s whistleblower claims, the TV station reported.
Fitzgerald’s lawyer, Stephen Kennedy, is representing two fired Fort Worth computer workers who also claim whistleblower status. Fitzgerald told NBC 5 the two provided information to the FBI before they were fired.
“You can hear a lot in city hall [about corruption], but you can’t prove a lot unless you have witnesses,” Fitzgerald said. “I had a witness.”
The FBI hasn’t said whether it has opened an inquiry into the claims. Fitzgerald told the TV station he doesn’t know the status of the case.