OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Kevin Stitt cleaned house at the Department of Public Safety last month, replacing the DPS Commissioner and his two top leaders.
But now, those former top dogs are fighting back.
They say they shouldn’t be out of a job.
Former commissioner Rusty Rhoades, former assistant commissioner Megan Simpson and former highway patrol chief Michael Harrell are putting the state on notice Friday that they’re filing a tort claim.
That’s the first step in the process toward suing the state.
As News 4 has reported, Stitt said one of the reasons he replaced this regime at DPS was over Real ID, claiming they weren’t getting it done, although it’s been a problem Oklahoma has been kicking down the road for more than a decade.
“My clients met every benchmark associated with Real ID as they understood it and were required to do,” attorney Dustin Hopson said.
Hopson is representing Rhoades, Harrell and Simpson.
He also says his clients were retaliated against for trying to investigate unlawful behavior within the department, such as the Troy German case.
German is the former trooper accused of blackmailing Rhoades. He was indicted by a grand jury, but the attorney General’s office dismissed the case in June.
Hopson says the former DPS regime wanted the prosecution to keep going.
“The Attorney General’s office noted in the media that the Office of Highway Patrol and DPS requested those charges to be dismissed. That is not the case,” Hopson said.
Less than three months later, Rhoades, Simpson and Harrell were replaced at DPS in a surprise Labor Day announcement.
In their wrongful termination claim, they also say the governor didn’t even have the power to fire Simpson and Harrell under state statute.
“It only and specifically says the commissioner selects and hires those positions,” Hopson said.
All three former officials are asking for the maximum amount of relief under statute of $175,000 each.
The state has 90 days to respond. After that, the claimants can file a lawsuit.