Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson fired four prosecutors in his office Monday after the county lost a $510,000 racial discrimination lawsuit last week in federal court.
Susan Piel, Cary Piel, John Renz and Ryan Calvert all were fired at about 11 a.m. Monday, said Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney who acts as Johnson’s spokeswoman.
She declined to comment further on the matter.
Denton lawyer Bill Trantham, who tried the case against the county, said Monday that he thought it was politically expedient for Johnson to fire all four of the lawyers involved in the case.
Susan Piel is married to Cary Piel, Trantham said. Calvert is his brother-in-law and Renz was his partner in a felony court.
“I think it’s an earthquake up there,” he said of the district attorney’s office. “From a political standpoint, I’d rather get rid of them all than have anyone left over when re-election time came. If I’d been Paul Johnson when it first happened, I would have just fired Cary on the spot and been done with it.”
Trantham filed the suit Dec. 1, 2009, on behalf of Nadiya Williams-Boldware in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in Sherman, alleging that Cary Piel made racially insulting remarks in Boldware’s presence; that Susan Piel, who was Boldware’s supervisor in the misdemeanor crimes section of the office, did not protect Boldware from having to hear those remarks; and that Calvert and another prosecutor with the district attorney’s office, made remarks later that harassed Boldware and contributed to a hostile work environment. Renz was also accused of making harassing remarks.
A federal jury awarded Boldware the $510,000 and ordered the county to also pay attorneys’ fees.
The lawsuit’s outcome is expected to be discussed in executive session by the Denton County Commissioners Court today.
County Judge Mary Horn declined comment on this latest development, but did say, “The district attorney is an elected official and I am an elected official. I am not his boss.”
Commissioner Hugh Coleman, who formerly worked in the district attorney’s office, said Johnson’s action to fire the prosecutors was too little, too late.
“I wish Paul Johnson would have taken these direct actions before we got sued,” Coleman said. “This definitely shows a lack of leadership in the DA’s office. We need to be particularly zealous with taxpayer money regarding these matters.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address email@example.com .
DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .