Former assistant alleges discrimination, cronyism and retaliatory termination in suit filed against DA Ori White and 4 local counties

Photo courtesy of Rod Ponton // The Alpine office of the 83rd District Attorney was sworn into office on January 4, 2021 by Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara. Pictured from left are Assistant DA Tim Crowley, Marisol Skelton, DA Investigator Leti Carrillo, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara, 83rd District Attorney Ori White, Assistant DA Rod Ponton, and First Assistant DA Jerry Phillips.

FAR WEST TEXAS — Attorney Jerry Phillips has filed a lawsuit seeking damages, reinstatement and other injunctive relief against 83rd District Attorney Ori White individually and as head of the DA’s office, and against Presidio, Brewster, Jeff Davis and Pecos counties that are within the 83rd district.

The plaintiff, Phillips, is bringing the lawsuit under the Texas Whistleblower Act, claiming there were “adverse personnel actions” as a result of the plaintiff’s reporting of alleged illegal conduct.

Phillips is an attorney who lives in Sonora, and was announced as first assistant district attorney this January, when White was sworn into the top spot in the 83rd DA’s office.

In the suit, Phillips alleges that what began as a good working relationship in the DA’s office quickly devolved, ultimately ending in what he believes was retaliatory termination in May for whistleblowing on activities in the office.

The filing is filled with detailed, explosive accusations of cronyism, discrimination and near brushes with improper influence in the DA’s office under White, also bringing in allegations against Brewster County Attorney Steve Houston, Presidio County Attorney Rod Ponton and unnamed county attorneys within the district.

The filing was made in Travis County, and when it was announced in Presidio County Commissioners Court on Wednesday, Ponton informed the commissioners that White will be represented by the attorney general’s office, and all four counties will be represented by the Texas Association of Counties. Phillips is represented by Alpine attorney Jodi Cole.

The plaintiff is seeking $250,000 to $1,000,000 in relief and demanded a jury trial in his filing.

This suit was announced in Presidio County Commissioners Court on Wednesday as the newspaper was preparing to go to press. It is a developing story that The Big Bend Sentinel will continue to follow.