DFPS chief of staff resigns amid lawsuit accusing him of sexual harassment, inappropriate sexual behavior

Chief of Staff Demetrie Mitchell committed acts of a sexual nature during after-hours events, lawsuit alleges

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services offices in Austin on Nov. 14, 2019.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services offices in Austin on Nov. 14, 2019.

AUSTIN – The chief of staff for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services resigned Thursday, weeks after a lawsuit accused him of sexual harassment and making repeated sexual advances toward a female subordinate who later left the agency.

Demetrie Mitchell was named throughout a Sept. 26 lawsuit filed against the state agency in Harris County by a former DFPS employee.

The woman, who KSAT is not naming, claims the inappropriate behavior from Mitchell started in May 2018, shortly after she was promoted to be a special investigations program administrator. Mitchell was her immediate supervisor while serving as director of special investigations and human trafficking, the suit states.

The suit claims the woman was subjected to “severe and perverse sexual harassment” from Mitchell beginning shortly after she was promoted. The woman who filed the lawsuit left the agency in March 2020.

The suit states Mitchell often made references to the size of his penis, including one incident during a work conference in Austin in late May 2018 in which Mitchell was accused of telling a group of employees that a large tube used to hold rolled up posters was smaller than his penis.

A witness told the woman who filed the suit that he believed Mitchell would get into trouble for making the comment, the suit states.

Months later, in August 2018, the woman claims she was subjected to unwanted sexual advances from Mitchell during a work conference in Dallas.

These advances included Mitchell repeatedly attempting to get the woman to go back with him to his hotel room, at one point following her to a parking lot and hugging her, the suit states.

The woman was forced to devise a plan for future work trips to protect herself from unwanted advances from Mitchell, including staying somewhere other than the conference host hotel or sharing a room with another female employee, the suit states.

The suit also details a June 2019 work conference in Austin in which Mitchell was accused of spanking another female on her buttocks.

Months later, during a work trip in Corpus Christi in January 2020, Mitchell called the woman and said he was naked in his hotel room and asked if she wished to join him, the suit states. A fellow employee heard the conversation as it took place via speaker phone, according to the lawsuit.

The suit also claims the woman was the unwanted recipient of late night text messages and phone calls from Mitchell.

At least one other female employee of DFPS had filed a sexual harassment against Mitchell in the fall of 2019, according to the lawsuit.

The 14-page lawsuit, which seeks between $250,000 and $1 million in damages, also includes multiple allegations that the woman was underpaid throughout much of her tenure with the agency.

An attorney representing the woman declined to comment Thursday via email, citing the pending litigation.

Mitchell was named DFPS chief of staff in February 2020, according to an online bio that remained on the agency’s website Thursday, even after his resignation.

A source familiar with the case said DFPS Commissioner Jamie Masters was made aware of the suit shortly after it was filed but chose not to take any action against Mitchell.

A DFPS spokesman released the following statement Thursday afternoon:

“We are aware of the lawsuit and have no comment on the specific allegations. We do want to state clearly that sexual harassment, and discrimination of any kind, is not tolerated at DFPS. Mr. Mitchell has resigned as Chief of Staff.”

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is the agency responsible for the state’s foster care system and investigates possible abuse and neglect among children, the elderly and adults with disabilities.

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About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

David Raziq is the executive producer for the Defenders investigative team.