Fort Worth Weekly has reported in previous posts that the outside legal costs to fight Fort Worth ISD whistleblower Joe Palazzolo has reached more than $400,000 and is still climbing as Palazzolo will soon take his case to a state district court. Under an open records request, we learned today that two other whistleblower cases that were recently settled have cost the district an additional $200,000 in outside fees. That is in addition to the settlements.
In the case of former employee Raul Duran, the district settled his case for $250,000 and did not reinstate him. The outside law firm of Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt and Kutchin was paid $101,593.65 out of the Texas Association of School Boards Risk Management Fund, with the district reimbursing the TASBRM $100,000 of that, according to the district’s legal head, Bertha Whatley.
In the case of whistleblower Aracely Chavez, the risk management fund paid the same law firm $125,051.07. The Fort Worth district reimbursed the fund another $100,000 of that. Chavez’s case was settled for $135,000 and she was rehired under a two-year contract at a salary of $92,000.
Do the math. So far, taxpayers are out almost $1 million and counting just to fight three whistleblowers, one of whom won by getting a nice settlement and reinstatement at a salary larger than she was making when she was fired; the second of whom walked off with a quarter of a million dollars and the third — Palazzolo — has so far won at every stage of his administrative proceedings and still the majority “big fools” on the board say “push on.”
The district in the Chavez and Duran cases says it admitted to “no wrongdoing.” It settled to avoid further “legal fees.” Of course.
One thing is certain, the district is facing a shortfall of $50 million and has laid off dozens of low-pay workers such as library aides, school monitors, and kindergarten aides. For those folks, one million dollars could have saved a lot of jobs.