March 26, 2019
Berg & Androphy: Jury Awards Houston Whistleblower $1.87 Million
Former Houston Housing Authority General Counsel Karen Miniex prevails as jury rejects city retaliation after she reported fraud
HOUSTON, March 25, 2019 – Former Houston Housing Authority General Counsel Karen Miniex, who alleged she was fired after reporting fraud within the agency, has been vindicated by a federal-court jury, the Berg & Androphy law firm said today.
After about three hours of deliberation following a three-week trial, the jury in U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas’ court found that the city retaliated against Miniex and awarded her about $1.87 million in back pay, front pay, and past and future mental anguish, plus attorney’s fees and costs.
According to the complaint, when Miniex discovered fraud in the housing authority veterans’ voucher program after a four-month investigation in 2016, she took her findings and concerns about systemic fraud to the president and CEO, Tory Gunsolley. According to the lawsuit, Gunsolley replied, “Well, it is not like we don’t have more vouchers than veterans anyway.” In total, Miniex went to Gunsolley on five times about the fraud and her concerns, but each time she was disregarded. After he misrepresented Miniex’s report and concerns to the board, Miniex went to the board members herself.
As Miniex continued to raise concerns about the alleged fraud, the complaint alleged, Gunsolley said she should “consider whether she wanted to be at HHA” because she was not being a “team player.” After receiving excellent performance reviews, raises, and bonuses before the fraud report, Miniex faced increased criticism and was fired late in 2016.
Zenobia Harris Bivens, a Berg & Androphy partner who led the firm’s trial team in the case, said, “Nobody should ever be punished for doing the right thing and trying to stop fraud. This verdict should send a signal to the City of Houston that they need to re-examine the way they operate – from top to bottom. Karen Miniex paid a high price for her honesty, but we’re grateful the jury saw the evidence in this case for what it is: proof that she was a good steward of taxpayer money and an excellent lawyer and employee.”
The case is “Karen Miniex v. Houston Housing Authority,” Case 4:17-cv-00624 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
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