December 02, 2008
Lawsuit filed over UTMB firings

Lots of lawsuits in the news today.

A Galveston district judge should void a decision to fire 3,800 employees at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston because it was illegally made during a closed meeting, according to a lawsuit filed today.

The lawsuit accuses the University of Texas regents of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act when they closed the doors to a Nov. 12 meeting and decided to authorize the layoffs to help stem financial losses caused by Hurricane Ike.

"Our lawyers believe we acted within the law of the Open Meetings Act," said Anthony de Bruyn, spokesman for the UT system. He declined to comment on pending litigation.


The lawsuit was filed by the Texas Faculty Association, which has about 1,200 members statewide, UTMB employee Kay Sandor, former UTMB employee and former Galveston City Councilwoman Dianna Puccetti, and Galveston businessman Allen Lecornu.

"Important public decisions are being made in secret for reasons nobody knows," TFA Executive Director Tom Johnson said about the regents.

"They meet in secret and are accountable to no one," Johnson said.

Galveston Attorney Joe Jaworski said he filed the lawsuit in Galveston County District Court at 8:22 a.m. The case has been assigned to District Judge Wayne Mallia.

I've got the press release from the TFA beneath the fold. They were originally going to file tomorrow but moved it up to today. Any lawyers want to comment on this one?

Galveston attorney Joe Jaworski will file a lawsuit on behalf of the Texas Faculty Assn. (TFA) and other plaintiffs alleging that University of Texas Board of Regents and other UT officials violated the Texas Open Meetings Act when they held a closed meeting and conference phone calls before they announced the layoffs of 3,800 employees of the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in the wake of Hurricane Ike.

"UTMB has proudly served the health needs of Texas for over a century. It is a first-class teaching hospital, research institution and Level-One Trauma Center. Hurricane Ike caused severe, but reparable damage; however, the UT System Board of Regents have shocked all Texans by choosing to dismantle the institution rather than rebuild with insurance, FEMA money and other available state and federal funds," said Jaworski.

"We don't know the basis of their decision since it was secretly deliberated in a closed session in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act. This lawsuit seeks to shine some much needed light on the Regents' shocking decision," he added.

"This hasty, secret and ill-conceived decision by the UT Regents, UTMB officials and UT Chancellor Ken Shine is guaranteed to destroy Galveston's largest employer and render the recovery of this great city all, but impossible," stated TFA Executive Director Tom Johnson.

"It is a vicious, cruel, immoral and abusive attack on thousands of loyal UTMB employees who have already been traumatized by Hurricane Ike. The decision is guaranteed to render increasing illnesses and may even increase deaths among the non-insured Galveston population - a population that UTMB has been attempting to abandon for years as 'unprofitable.'

"TFA pledges to our members, UTMB employees and the citizens of Galveston and Texas that we will do everything in our power to see that this action is reversed."

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 02, 2008 to Hurricane Katrina

After reading the original stories when they came out and your lengthy blockquotes, I still can't figure out the endgame. I mean, I agree that the process should have been more transparent (and that the overall response to the UTMB crisis has been underwhelming to say the least). But if the lawsuits are successful, do we really think the employment decision is going to be reversed, or reversed for any period of time?

So what is the endgame?

Posted by: Kevin Whited on December 2, 2008 11:04 PM

The endgame is, as in any business, profit or nonprofit, to have enough revenue to pay the employees that are required in order to provide services that are offered. UTMB could not do that, nor was even there work for those employees to do. The regents had no choice. No business in this country would pay employees for months (a $40 million monthly payroll) for no work. Painful and tragic as it is, the layoffs could not be avoided. Time to get on with the decisions to move the med school off of a barrier island, while providing Galveston the level of basic health care services it requires.

Posted by: Dennis on December 3, 2008 5:10 AM
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