Since 1919

The Prairie News

Since 1919

The Prairie News

Since 1919

The Prairie News

WT faces two new lawsuits in alleged police cover-up

Blass Guerrero

West Texas A&M University faces two new lawsuits from former and current employees alleging that the university covered up and retaliated against them for an investigation of sexual discrimination at the University Police Department (UPD). The investigation also led to the termination of former Director of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance Department Georganna Ecker, according to her claim in a separate lawsuit filed in March.

Nathan Crawford was a detective for UPD. In 2021, Crawford spoke with investigators supporting allegations of sexual discrimination in the police department. The Title IX office at WT investigated this. Crawford told investigators that he feared retaliation by Chief of Police Shawn Burns.

According to the court document, in July 2022, Assistant Chief of Police Kyle Hawbaker told Crawford he had no chance of being a sergeant because he was “lumped in with the others” in the investigation into the police department. He later found out Burns was looking for a reason to fire him. In August 2022, Crawford had a disciplinary proceeding against him for not reporting sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims. Still, in the end, most of the allegations were unsupported.

In October 2022, Crawford overheard Burns discussing his involvement in the investigation. He recorded the discussion and reported it to The Texas A&M University System. Crawford was suspended with pay for the recording, and the university threatened him with criminal charges. Crawford believed Burns would not stop trying to find a way to fire him, so in May 2023, he resigned.

Barbara Ferrara-Faltinek is a Lieutenant for UPD. Ferrara-Faltinek had ongoing issues with a police officer. According to the court document, she reported the issues with Burns and discussed filing a formal complaint. Burns told Ferrara-Faltinek that filing a complaint would make it “worse” for her. She asked what he meant by that and he didn’t respond. She saw it as a threat of retaliation if she continued.

In 2021, as several female officers filed a complaint against a former police officer, Ferrara-Faltinek was contacted by investigators as a potential witness. She gave information to investigators about sexual discrimination in the department and her concerns about retaliation by Burns.

Since making the alleged threats, one female officer was fired, and six other officers resigned, including two female complainants in the Title IX case. Burns moved Ferrara-Faltinek to “Police Training and Compliance,” a new position he created to separate Ferrara-Faltinek from the rest of the department. Ferrara-Faltinek accused Burns of derailing her career track as an investigative supervisor and continuing to retaliate against her.

Ferrara-Faltinek met with Burns and Hawbaker in September 2022. Burns blamed her for the anonymous complaints and warned her that she would be fired if he found out she made those complaints. Ferrara-Faltinek says she was passed over for a promotion in January 2023.

Ferrara-Faltinek filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights with the Department of Education in June 2022, which was later referred to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for investigation. In March 2023, she filed a separate charge of discrimination with the EEOC.

Ferrara-Faltinek is suing WT, while Crawford is suing both WT and the Texas A&M System for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and are both pursuing damages, including back pay and benefits alongside compensatory damages. Both have also requested trials by jury.

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About the Contributor
Blass Guerrero
Blass Guerrero, Former Senior Reporter, Former Video and Audio Editor
Hello, my name is Blass Guerrero, and I’m from Dumas, Texas. I am currently a senior as a broadcast journalism major. I like to work out, hang out with friends, and read everything about Apple and the tech world. My goal after college is to work at a major news organization like NBC News or CNN.

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