Fired Finance Director Files Whistleblower Lawsuit Against Killeen

By  | 

KILLEEN (March 12, 2013) --- A lawsuit filed in Bell County state district court by Killeen’s former finance director Barbara Gonzales alleges that Gonzales was fired in violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act.

The suit seeks $200,000 to $1 million in compensatory damages and reinstatement or compensation for lack of reinstatement plus other unspecified damages.

The suit filed Friday alleges that City Manager Glenn Morrison fired Gonzales in December 2012 after she reported a series of violations of law by Killeen officials and employees including Morrison.

The suit alleges that Gonzales, along with Fleet Services Director Kim Randall, and two Fleet Services mechanics were targeted in an investigation that started after one of the mechanics was caught taking a used motor from a Fleet Services facility and says the results of the probe were used as a “fig-leaf excuse” to fire her in December 2012.

Randall and one of the two mechanics resigned and the second mechanic was fired.

In a statement e-mailed Tuesday, the city called the allegations baseless.

“The document is replete with misinformation and untruths. We look forward to the opportunity to defend the city against these false claims in a court of law,” the statement said.

(Read The Lawsuit)

The lawsuit details incidents in which Gonzales reported allegedly illegal activity by city officials and employees to Morrison and to Killeen police.

In one instance cited in the suit, Gonzales and Morrison argued over a check for $10,500 for a dinner in Washington, D.C. that included alcohol.

"Ms. Gonzales explained that the city policy did not permit use of city funds for purchase of alcohol, but Morrison overrode her decision and ordered the check cut," the lawsuit alleges.

The suit alleges that after the dinner, Morrison overrode Gonzales again for the reimbursement of an additional $5,500 he put on a personal credit card, including a gratuity of $916.80.

In another incident, the suit alleges that in April 2012 Morrison gave a $10,000 retroactive pay raise from $87,383 to $97,383 to Public Information Director Hillary Shine and a second retroactive raise to Public Information Officer Danielle Durbin that were illegal because they didn’t receive the City Council approval required for department head pay increases.

The suit says Gonzales reported other incidents including an employee who used sick time for reasons other than illness, a purchase order change for election equipment that raised the expenditure to more than the amount for which bids are required, an increase in a contract for manhole cover rehabilitation that exceeded what state law permits for change orders, and employees’ use of city equipment and facilities for personal reasons.

The suit also lists incidents Gonzales reported in which employees falsified time sheets including an employee of the city's Information Technology Department, Cynthia Crawford, who was disciplined, but retained her job, after allegedly falsifying timesheets so she got paid for time she didn't work in May 2012.

On Tuesday Killeen Public Information Executive Director Hilary Shine confirmed that Crawford is a former city employee.

Crawford, 52, was arrested last week on a warrant stemming from the theft of thousands of dollars from the regional nonprofit public sector software users group, of which she was the treasurer.

She’s free on bond, charged with theft over $1,500, but under $20,000 in the theft of more than $18,000 from a bank account in which a shortfall was reported, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Police investigators interviewed Crawford and she admitted taking the money for her own use, an arrest warrant affidavit said.