DPS memo connected to Smith County DA candidate stirs up controversy

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - A Smith County district attorney candidate and current prosecutor sought "whistleblower" protection when reporting to the Texas Rangers on Dec. 9, 2017 that First Assistant April Sikes may have committed criminal activity, according to copies of the documents obtained Friday by KLTV.

Texas Rangers reviewed the allegations and later found "insufficient evidence of any action that would warrant a criminal investigation."

On December 8, 2017, Smith County prosecutor Jacob Putman requested a meeting with Texas Ranger Nicholas Castle to report allegations that Sikes had "falsified government documents" and "violated campaign violation reporting requirements," according to a Texas Department of Safety Interoffice memorandum.

Putman provided the Texas Rangers with a USB drive that allegedly contained documentation related to the allegations.

Texas Ranger Nicholas Castle wrote in the memo dated Jan. 25, that, "Mr. Putman advised me he did not 'really care' if the information was acted upon and was reporting the criminal violations in order to assure he was afforded 'whistleblower' protections should Mr. Bingham try to fire him,"

Putman said Sunday in a statement released to KLTV, "I explained that where the investigation led and the ultimate outcome was up to the investigators and that I was not seeking any particular result."

Putman also said, "While I believed the claims and documents submitted by Amber Reeves deserved further investigation, I also believed that DA Matt Bingham and April Sikes would retaliate against me, assuming that I was behind the request."

Texas Whistleblower laws are designed to protect employees from employer retaliation by making it illegal to fire or otherwise retaliate against an employee who reports an employer's illegal or unethical acts.

Putman said the initial complaint filed by Amber Reeves on Sept. 25, 2017 required a response by Dec. 1, 2017 and alleges Bingham failed to investigate or respond.

"Mr. Putman further advised Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith and numerous other Smith County officials were made aware of the alleged criminal violations committed by Ms. Sikes, however, per Mr. Putman's account, all parties failed to act," the memo states.

In a response, Smith County First Assistant District Attorney April Sikes said that "Putman's allegations against me have been reviewed, and deemed baseless by the Smith County Sheriff, Larry Smith."

Sikes also said, "It is beyond belief that he (Putman) would stoop to such a low level as to call on the resources of the Texas Rangers Division of the Department of Public Safety. The men and women of the Texas Rangers deserve better than to be contacted by an Assistant D.A. – asked to meet him on a Saturday at Whataburger to investigate me for a 2012 vacation that I took with my family, and for campaign reports that I filed, but filed late."

Sikes was slated to run in the 2018 election but later withdrew.

Monday, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith released a statement on the Rangers' review and in response to Sikes and Putman's statements.

Smith said he had "not reviewed any allegations and would like to reflect that."

The sheriff also said he was never directly contacted by anyone for the purpose of reporting any crime allegedly committed by Sikes.

Smith says that he did indirectly receive an email without attachments on Dec. 1, 2017 from Amber Reeves, who initially filed the complaint that led to Putman requesting a Rangers review.

However, Smith says the email was addressed to District Attorney Matt Bingham's assistant with the words "follow up" in the subject line. He says there were no attachments to the email, and five people were listed in the CC including Lance Kutrick, who works with for the Texas Attorney Generals Office.

Because the attorney general's office would be responsible for investigating any corruption in the district attorney's office, Bingham says he did not respond to the complaint since it was already filed where it should be reported.

Grassroots America - We the People called a 1:30 p.m. press conference Monday to address the memo. GATW endorses Putman in the race for Smith County District Attorney.

At the press conference Putman's opponent, Alicia Barkley, challenged the results of an independent investigation by Grassroots America executive director Joann Fleming.

"Mrs. Fleming filed her open records request for this information four days before my opponent went to the Texas Rangers with this baseless allegation," says Barkley. "Four days, every bit of this was politically motivated to save his job when he found out he was going to have an opponent."

Because there is no democratic candidate running for the office, the winner of the March 6 primary election will be the next Smith County District Attorney.

KLTV has reached out to Reeves for comment.

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