Much like other media outlets, we've been following the courthouse rumors of two prosecutors fired on Friday by First Assistant District Attorney Terri Moore as payback for attending the Election Day shindig at Hotel Palomar hosted by the Dallas County Republican Party. But until one of the men -- Tom Nowak or John Grau -- could corroborate that they were in fact dismissed and tie it to Tuesday night, we didn't feel comfortable pulling the trigger on a story.
And while Grau, a former chief felony prosecutor who had been with the DA's Office for 25 years, is remaining silent, Nowak's now talking and says both he and Grau were let go by Moore on Friday in a similar fashion, leaving no doubt, as far as he's concerned, that the firings were a result of their attendance at the GOP event, where Grau appeared in the background during some of the live television reports.
"Jokes were made [about getting fired], thinking they were not at all credible, and then, sure enough, on Friday the joke came true," Nowak tells Unfair Park. "The joke was on us."
Nowak, a child abuse prosecutor hired in May 2005, says his political affiliation as a Republican was well-known long before his attendance at the party; however, he was actively supporting Danny Clancy, who opposed Democratic District Attorney Craig Watkins, along with at least eight friends running as Republican judges. While Nowak and Watkins never clashed, Nowak developed a friendship with Clancy after Clancy presided as a judge over Nowak's first case as a prosecutor.
"Whether Danny was a Democrat or a Libertarian, I would have supported him," he says.
After making his usual rounds at the courthouse on Friday morning, Nowak says he had lunch with some colleagues and then was called into Moore's office upon his return.
"She said, 'We work at the pleasure of the district attorney, and he doesn't want you to work for him anymore,' and I said, 'Why?'" he says. "And she said, 'Well, we've heard you've said some things about Mr. Watkins.' I asked her multiple times to tell me who said that, what was said or what I was being accused of and she could never give me a response."
Defendants are given their day in court and are allowed to face their accusers and accusations against them, but Nowak says he argued to no avail. "I got walked out like I was a criminal with an investigator watching my moves after five-and-a-half years at the DA's office as if I had done something wrong. So, I was obviously upset by that."
The next day, Nowak says news about him and Grau traveled fast, and he heard that folks close to Watkins had made inquiries around the DA's office about who had attended the party. Nowak also had people he knew tell him that they had been asked about his attendance at the GOP event.
"The fact that it was just me and John Grau -- the two people that were at the party -- is telling," he says of why the firings and party are connected.
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Watkins' spokesperson Jamille Bradfield in a statement to Unfair Park yesterday said the DA's Office does not comment on personnel matters, but then she flatly denied Nowak's allegation.
"It is absolutely not true that anyone was let go because they attended the Republican election night party," she said.
We reached out to Watkins yesterday through his campaign and Bradfield but didn't hear back.
Nowak, who's 31 years old with a 7-month-old daughter, says Watkins needs "thicker skin." He stresses that he was never disciplined during his time at the DA's Office and never had run-ins with Watkins or Moore. He also says Watkins promoted him from a No. 3 prosecutor to a No. 2 prosecutor. "My record is exemplary."