Killeen’s former finance director filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the city Monday, alleging she was fired for trying to stop city administrators from breaking state finance laws.
Barbara Gonzales was terminated Dec. 12 following a two-month-long internal investigation of the city’s Fleet Services Division.
Gonzales is seeking between $200,000 and $1 million in compensatory damages and reinstatement or compensation for lack of reinstatement.
The finance director’s lawsuit alleges that Gonzales brought issues of unlawful spending to City Manager Glenn Morrison, which he ignored and continued to engage in himself.
The lawsuit further claims that Gonzales was reprimanded by Morrison for reporting the alleged malfeasance to Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin and that reporting it to police was the cause of her termination.
The city of Killeen denied the claims Monday.
“The city of Killeen has received and reviewed a copy of the lawsuit filed by former employee Barbara Gonzales,” said Hilary Shine, director of public information. “The document is replete with misinformation and untruths. We look forward to the opportunity to defend the city against these false claims in a court of law.”
Although the Killeen city charter requires approval from the finance director for all expenditures, the lawsuit alleges Morrison overstepped Gonzales on several occasions without legal grounds to do so.
Among the claims, the lawsuit alleges that in September 2011 Morrison “cut” a check for a $10,500 dinner, which included alcohol, at a conference in Washington, D.C., after Gonzales had refused to process the check.
City policy does not permit the use of city funds for alcohol.
After the dinner, Morrison overrode Gonzales for an additional $5,500 reimbursement for money placed on his credit card for the dinner, the lawsuit claims.
According to the lawsuit, in April 2012, Morrison gave Killeen Director of Public Information Hilary Shine a $10,000 raise, increasing her salary from $87,383 to $97,383, without council approval.
The lawsuit also alleges Morrison issued seven months of back pay to Shine, amounting to about $5,833 in unlawful spending because retroactive pay is prohibited by the state constitution.
Gonzales’ lawyer, Bill Aleshire, said that in each of these instances and many more, Gonzales reported the problems to city administrators or police.
“She had a long record of standing up to city administrators, who had violated the law, and it cost her her job,” Aleshire said.
Gonzales worked for the city for 13 years and was the finance director for five years.
Gonzales’ lawsuit is the second case to be filed under the Texas Whistleblower Act in Bell County district court since Friday, when former city mechanic John Acker filed a lawsuit against the city. Aleshire is representing Acker in that lawsuit.
Acker was fired Dec. 12 — the same day as Gonzales. Both Acker and Gonzales have appealed their firings.
Contact Brandon Janes at email@example.com or (254) 501-7552