MIDLAND COUNTY, Texas — A civil lawsuit has been filed against employees of the Midland County Sheriff's Office.
Acting Sheriff Richard Gillette and Chief Deputy Rory McKinney, as well as Midland County, are named as defendants in the lawsuit which was filed on February 18, 2020.
Court documents obtained by NewsWest 9 show Debbie Nichols, an employee of MCSO, became suspicious of McKinney and others in the sheriff's office after they appeared to have information on matters private to the employees.
After filing an open records requests, Midland County Attorney Russell Malm produced Eventide NexLog Call Access Reports.
The reports showed that between March 29, 2019 and June 27, 2019 there were at least 262 calls made or received by Nichols alone that had been intercepted and recorded without her consent. The calls were intercepted and recorded by a computer system programmed by MCSO.
The reports also linked the recordings to a user known as "mckinner", who Nichol's attorney believes to be Rory McKinney. The user had even listened to one of Nichol's conversations up to 56 times.
The State of Texas is a one party consent state, meaning as long one person involved in the conversation is aware it is being recorded it is considered legal.
However, neither Nichols nor the other people involved in the conversations were aware they were being recorded.
Based on this, Nichols believes possibly tens of thousands more phone calls could have been recorded since the installation of the new telephone system. Documents show she is concerned that the privacy of both Midland County employees and outside citizens may have been violated.
Following this discovery, Nichols made a second public information request in October 2019 to get more phone records from a broader time period. However, so far the county has not released those records.
These findings were then reported to the Texas Rangers. The Rangers launched a criminal investigation in November.
The lawsuit alleges that the true scope of the telephone interceptions is unknown, and could extend as far back as under Sheriff Painter's administration.
McKinney and Gillette have been summoned to appear in court, as well as Judge Terry Johnson on behalf of Midland County.
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