Houston, Tx – On May 21, 2020, the former Chief of Police for the City of Jersey Village, C. Eric Foerster, filed suit against the City and its City Manager, Austin Bleess. The lawsuit alleges the City and Bleess terminated Foerster because he engaged in protected speech – violating Foerster’s state and federal constitutional rights.
“It is painful to have to file a lawsuit against the city I served for nine years,” said Foerster. “A place where I diligently worked to promote a positive Police agency.”
On or about September 13, 2019, the suit alleges Foerster learned that a Jersey Village City Councilmember, James Singleton, had violated the City Charter by interfering in a Police Department personnel matter. Officer Mark Zatzkin was facing discipline and the suit alleges Zatzkin blackmailed Singleton to get his discipline reduced.
According to the suit, Zatzkin was in possession of a memorandum he had written describing the circumstances surrounding Singleton being forced to resign from the Police Department in 2008, prior to his election to City Council. Specifically asserting that the memorandum detailed how Singleton had used police computers to watch pornography and masturbated in patrol cars.
The lawsuit details how Foerster contacted the City Manager as soon as he learned Singleton was likely interfering in Zatzkin’s personnel matter and, in doing so, violating the City Charter. It also states that the City Manager failed to take action and instead suspended Foerster. Then, after communicating his concerns to the City Council and the Mayor, the City and City Manager fired Foerster.
“Although I never should have been put in the position where I had to go outside my chain of command and speak out as a citizen to City Council and the Mayor, I was entitled to do so and protected from retaliation under the First Amendment,” Foerster said. “This was clearly a matter of public concern, and I had to do something.”
Foerster is represented by Julie St. John and Rob Wiley of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., a plaintiff’s side employment litigation firm in Houston, Texas. Rob Wiley is a board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.