CITY OF KATY (Covering Katy News)—The Katy City Council Monday counter offered a proposed settlement with a former city emergency management coordinator who sued following her firing in March 2018.
Maria Horn Galvez filed suit against the city in September 2018 in state district court. Her suit alleged invasion of privacy or intrusion of seclusion in that city officials reviewed her Facebook Messenger posts, some of which were personal in nature, to obtain information to terminate her employment.
The lawsuit named Fire Chief Russell Wilson and then-Mayor Chuck Brawner as defendants. Both men denied the allegations. Wilson remains fire chief. Brawner lost his reelection bid in May. The case is now in federal court.
The council’s 4-1 vote means the city has amended the proposed settlement, and Galvez and her lawyers must decide how to respond. Proposed terms were not disclosed.
“We’re not discussing anything,” Mayor Bill Hastings said. “Have a great evening.”
Council members met for about 90 minutes in executive session to review the case with lawyers. Ward A Council Member Frank Carroll, himself a lawyer, was the lone vote against the proposal.
“I thought the facts and the circumstances didn’t warrant me voting yes,” Carroll said. “I thought it was not the best deal and that’s why I voted against it. I’m only going to vote for things I think are in the best interest of the city, and I don’t think this was.”
Carroll said the proposed settlement was a result of mediation, and he thought the matter would be resolved quickly.
“I understand there are case deadlines coming up in October,” Carroll said, adding that the situation isn’t yet a done deal.
“When it’s a done deal, it’s worth talking about,” Carroll said.
Galvez’s is seeking between $200,000 and $1 million in damages. According to the suit, Galvez is seeking back pay, front pay, loss of earning capacity and value of retirement benefits. She's also seeking damages for future monetary losses, emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and other non-monetary losses.
Upcoming Council Meetings Cancelled and Rescheduled
The council typically meets the second and fourth Monday nights of the month, but with the holidays approaching it changed its schedule.
The council cancelled the November 11 council meeting because of the Veterans Day holiday, the November 25 meeting because of the Thanksgiving holidays, and the December 23 meeting because of the Christmas holidays.
The council called a special meeting for 4 p.m. on November 18.
Other Actions Taken
In other action Monday, the council:
• Issued a proclamation designating October as Dyslexia Awareness Month.
• Approved the 2020 city holiday schedule.
• Approved minutes for the September 9, September 16, and September 23 council meetings.
• Approved a $15,000 dues payment for the Katy Area Economic Development Council.
• Approved a request from First Service Residential, the management company for Enclave at Katy, that the city assume monthly operating costs for 78 neighborhood street lights.
• Approved a 10.17 acre final plat for Cane Island Pond in Harris County.
• Approved a 4.76 acre final plat for Woodcreek Reserve FM 1463 Commercial Reserves South Reserve in Fort Bend County.
• Approved an agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation for the temporary closure of portions of Highway 90 and FM 1463 for the Annual Katy Independent School District FFA Parade, which is set for February 15, 2020.
• Authorized Mayor Hastings to enter into service agreements with Motorola Solutions, Inc., for yearly maintenance services of fire station alerting systems.
• Authorized the continued receipt of bingo prize money from the Texas Lottery Commission.
• Granting an Aerial Easement between Prairie Parkway and Kingsland Boulevard, along Boardwalk Drive, for the Katy Boardwalk Project.
• Authorized Mayor Hastings to sign an interlocal agreement between the Region 8 Education Service Center and the City of Katy for cooperative purchasing. In a memo to the council urging approval, Richard Oliva, IT manager, said the program is designed to obtain savings for participating school entities or public agencies.
• Authorized Mayor Hastings to sign an interlocal agreement between Tarrant County and the city for the city to participate in the Tarrant County cooperative purchasing program. In a memo to the council urging approval, Andrew Vasquez, finance director, said there was no cost to the city to enter the agreement. He said the benefit to the city will be best pricing for Chevrolet Tahoe police vehicles. He said the city previously purchased police vehicles through the Dallas County interlocal agreement which has expired.
• Authorized Mayor Hastings to sign a master equity lease agreement, an amendment to the master equity lease agreement, a maintenance agreement, and an amendment to the maintenance agreement with Enterprise Fleet Management.
• Appointed James Leroy Muscarella, Jr., as a regular member to the Landscape Appeal Board. He succeeds Nevelynn Melendy on the board.
• Approved the city’s investment policy.
• Tagged, or delayed, at the request of Ward A Council Member Janet Corte, a $1,107,469 bid to Cooley Construction, LLC, of Magnolia, for Phase II of the Pitts Road Detention Pond. The total project cost is $1,325,326, including the bid amount, contingencies, engineering, surveying, and inspection. Corte said she asked City Administrator Byron Hebert Friday for more information, including drawings, about the project. She said he hasn’t had a chance to provide that information before the meeting.