By Anthony Scott
Killeen Daily Herald
A 2008-09 internal audit of Killeen's EMS billing practices reveals that former City Manager Connie Green was aware of possible fraud within the billing department, which may be a contributing factor to Green's costly departure from his position.
After two heated executive sessions and some negotiation, the City Council bought out Green for $750,000 with a 4-3 vote Tuesday.
The EMS Billing Department had been double billing, according to the 2008-09 audit, which was sent to Green from the city's Internal Auditor Amanda Wallace. The procedure may still be going on.
"During a review of the procedures employed by EMS billing, it was noted that double billing occurs quite often in the way of 'conditional payments,'" Wallace wrote in the audit. "Since these are not true conditional payments with Tricare and VA, this process is technically 'double billing,' which is explained by Tricare as fraud and abuse."
Wallace further wrote that the process is a violation of Tricare and VA rules, which poses a liability for the city.
"In order to be in compliance, EMS billing must discontinue this practice," she said.
Former EMS billing employee Annette Warden said the practice was still taking place in December 2010 when she quit the department, despite the advice from Wallace.
Warden said the city could face a liability because insurance companies can go back five years and take every payment. The companies and patients who paid for the services could also pursue litigation against the city.
Sabrina Ramirez, another former EMS billing employee who left in November 2010, also contended the double billing was still taking place at the time of her departure.
In an email dated Feb. 28 to Councilwoman JoAnn Purser, Warden asserted that to her knowledge the issues with the EMS department and its supervisor were taken directly to Green in 2008 and 2010 by upper-level management. Purser replied March 1 in an email that thanked her and she said, "I am sure there will be a discussion regarding all inappropriate activity and measures to prevent this."
Warden further attracted the attention of the city when she began to look into the history of a sexual harassment settlement paid in 2008 on behalf of Green. The city was aware of this and made repeated attempts to block her from getting access to public records. The city attorney wrote several letters to the state attorney general in an effort to block the requests.
In a letter to the office of the attorney general, City Attorney Kathy Davis said the EMS billing division had a long history of employee issues where Warden was employed and that there could be a potential for litigation.
Davis said one issue was a charge of racial discrimination that was taken by upper management to Green. Warden alleged that black employees were treated differently than her by her supervisor, Eunice Lipscomb.
The charge was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Texas Workforce Civil Rights Division and was received by the city on Dec. 10, 2010. Warden resigned from the city effective Jan. 4, 2011, Davis repeated in letters to the attorney general.
In the past few days, Councilman Larry Cole has been speaking out concerning the issues brought up by Warden.
In an interview, Cole said he wanted to terminate Green rather than buy him out after Green threatened litigation on yet another issue when he tried to look into complaints he received from Warden.
Cole had begun to dig into personnel issues within the EMS billing department after receiving an email from Warden. When he did this, he may have committed a "walking quorum," which Green would later use to threaten litigation against council or the city, Cole said.
"I thought Connie would probably stonewall (the investigation) and I thought it need to be looked into, so I was going to take it to the council and say, 'Will you support an investigation into this matter?'" Cole said. "I had no idea Connie knew anything about it. I had no idea there had been a previous investigation."
Cole said he gave copies of the email to council members Kenny Wells, Purser, Juan Rivera and Billy Workman prior to a workshop session. Cole said he didn't know they had copies already sent to them.
Green was made aware of the email when Wells asked him about it. Green then called a meeting with Cole, Assistant City Manager Glenn Morrison and councilmen Ernest Wilkerson and Billy Workman outside of an actual session, Cole said.
Cole said Green told the group that personnel issues in the EMS Billing Department were being looked into and he would have a report about the item. Green also used the meeting to bring up that Warden made a records request related to a past sexual harassment lawsuit involving former Finance Director Rana Lacer. He also mentioned the recent resignation of planner Beverly Zendt.
Afterward, Cole said he was told by an assistant city attorney that he should stop interfering with the EMS billing situation because the case is under investigation and may involve litigation against the city.
Soon after, during a closed-session council workshop, Green threatened litigation against the "city or the council" for having walking quorums, Cole said. A walking quorum is a situation in which four or more council members communicate about city business outside of a posted meeting.
"I honestly do not know if he had a legitimate case or not," Cole said. "I'm not an attorney. From that, we're right back into this, 'let's pay him off; let's don't have a stink, lets just go on and pay him off and get rid of him.'"
Looking into sexual harassment claims
Cole said that during the meeting with him, Workman and Wilkerson, Green told them Zendt's sudden resignation was under investigation. A council member reportedly had called the former planner to inquire about sexually oriented emails to which she objected.
Cole said City Hall has a history with sexual harassment allegations and that he was aware of at least four past or current incidents.
"There was some of this consensual stuff going on," Cole said in regard to allegations.
While Green said the city was investigating discrepancies in the EMS Billing Department, Cole said he would rather have an external investigation to avoid the appearance of a coverup.
The question of a settlement of a sexual harassment case involving Lacer also came up. The case was settled for about $110,000 in 2008 on behalf of Green.
Cole alleged that during one of the meetings with Green, another council member told him there may have been additional money exchanged under the table to Lacer, beyond the settlement that the city agreed to.
Cole said it is now his opinion that Green was hiding something about the Lacer incident, having noticed that Green didn't seem upset until requests concerning the Lacer case were made by Warden.
Green, 49, became city manager in 2005 after former City Manager David Blackburn left to work the same position in Temple. Originally Green made about $135,000 annually, but by the end of his tenure his salary increased to about $195,000 per year. In 1990, Green started with the city as finance director and was promoted to assistant city manager in 2000.
In a Friday interview at City Hall, Cosper said the City Council could have paid Green about $555,000 as his contract stipulated. He also said in negotiations something changed where Green became angry and told council members they made it difficult for him to do his job.
The two parties would work out the $750,000 agreement, a number less than Green originally asked for. The agreement includes a clause to prevent both parties from pursuing litigation toward each other.
Contact Anthony Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568.