Metro settles with Higgins

And the last bit of “old Metro” business gets put to rest.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s board [Thursday] agreed to settle a lawsuit by the agency’s former chief counsel in which she accused Metro of firing her for trying to prevent the allegedly unlawful destruction of documents.

Metro has agreed to pay Pauline Higgins up to $100,000 to cover her legal fees. The agency will pay no damages.

See here for the background and Hair Balls for more. Statements from Ms. Higgins and Metro are beneath the fold. Far as I know this is the last bit if Wolff/Wilson business to deal with, so it should be all “new Metro” from here on out. I know I’m glad to get to this point, and I’m sure everyone at Metro is, too.

Houston, February 24, 2011 – The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (New METRO) announced today that METRO and its former General Counsel have agreed to settle Cause No. 2010-24578, styled Pauline Higgins v. Frank Wilson, David S. Wolff, and Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas, in the 127th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas, involving the remaining dispute arising from the events involving Ms. Pauline E. Higgins’s departure from METRO surrounding the actions taken by the previous METRO Administration. METRO and Ms. Higgins have concluded that a settlement will serve the interests of all parties as METRO moves forward under new leadership. Both METRO and Ms. Higgins are moving forward, committed to best practices and transparency in METRO’s operations. METRO recognizes her significant contributions in these areas to the benefit of the organization and the City of Houston.

METRO recognizes and thanks Ms. Higgins for working collaboratively with METRO to resolve the dispute, and wishes her the very best in her future endeavors. “I appreciate the way Pauline conducted herself during this process,” said METRO’s CEO, George Greanias. “I am particularly grateful that Ms. Higgins has agreed to receive only payment for the attorney’s fees that she has incurred and has additionally agreed to forgo any compensation for personal damages.”

METRO also expresses its disappointment for the circumstances surrounding Ms. Higgins’ departure from the organization. METRO’s Chairman, Gilbert Garcia, noted: “The new Metro regrets and disapproves of the inaccurate statements made about Ms. Higgins in the media regarding her departure from METRO. We appreciate Ms. Higgins’ efforts to help us conclude this legacy issue so that we can concentrate on safe, reliable, convenient and affordable public transit and mobility services that our customers and taxpayers deserve.”

Houston Lawyer Higgins to Address Metro’s Apology at 1 pm Press Conference Today, Feb. 24

HOUSTON – Houston attorney Pauline E. Higgins will address the public and media during a press conference scheduled for today to announce the recent apology and settlement she has received from the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Houston (Metro) in order to resolve her wrongful termination and defamation claims against the agency.

Ms. Higgins – a lawyer, CPA, community leader and former Metro general counsel, will discuss the apology and settlement today at 1 p.m. at the law firm offices of Rusty Hardin & Associates at 5 Houston Center, 1401 McKinney Street, Suite 2250 in downtown Houston. Ms. Higgins will be accompanied by her lawyers Mr. Hardin and Joe Ahmad of Houston’s Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Anaipakos.

“Metro has accepted responsibility for the false statements it made about me to the media and acknowledged that it was improper to fire me in a February press conference laced with these false claims,” says Ms. Higgins, who worked at two major law firms, a bank and a major accounting firm before joining Metro.

“All I wanted from Metro officials after they went to the media to discredit me as a scapegoat for Metro’s problems was for them to apologize and repair the damage they did,” says Ms. Higgins, who served as Metro’s Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary with responsibility for the Legal Department, Administration, Small Business, Real Estate, and Procurement. “I am proud that I was able to achieve this apology without costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. I will receive no money from Metro beyond reimbursement of attorney’s fees and expenses that were necessary to get Metro to officially recognize that those statements were false.”

“I certainly join Metro in regretting it took the actions it did. But I do not regret standing up against those actions. No one is above the law, and I will bear any burden in order to defend public trust and accountability,” Ms. Higgins says. “They engaged in a media war against me, but I have weathered that storm. I am still here standing for accountability for public funds, public trust, ethics and the rule of law. As long as I am alive, I will fight for respect for the public trust, transparent stewardship of public resources, and ethical brokerage of business.”

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