Why would an employer provide grounds for a lawsuit to an employee? It is hard to fathom, but Bexar Metropolitan Water District has fired a business analyst whose warnings about improper accounting practices were supported by a a consultant. See San Antonio Express News report. Gilbert Herrera’s warnings were well-reported prior to his termination. An outside audit confirmed his belief that some $3 million in fees should not have been counted as revenue. That $3 million, however, was needed so Bexar Met could maintain a higher bond rating. Bexar Metropolitan has been closely followed for the past several years in the San Antonio media. The water district has had a great many scandals and lawsuits, lately.
With that history, why would an employer fire a well-known whistle blower? My only guess from afar is that most employers who violate known statutes exhibit some degree of arrogance. The news report suggests that Mr. Herrera has been insubordinate or had a "bad attitude." That may help the employer in a lawsuit. I try to tell all my employee clients that they need to be on their best behavior especially after reporting their employer for some violation. Juries do not always understand the law in a particular trial. But, they do understand personalities and insubordination.
As I have mentioned before in this blog, some friends of mine run a chain of sandwich shops. They have never been sued. They have a talent for respecting all employees and giving everyone, customer or employee a fair shake. The few times they run into potential issues, they quickly offer some money and seek a release.
Bexar Met is run by dozens of people with degrees and training. They have some 270,000 residential and commercial customers. They are overseen by an elected board of seven members. Their last CEO was a retired Army lieutenant-colonel. Despite all the leadership and management training he would have received from the Army, he violated wire tapping laws, as well as sexual harassment statutes. Yet, my friends with no formal management training and no college degrees exhibit much more talent and leadership than those supposedly better educated.
Mr. Herrera says he is looking for a lawyer. I bet he is. Bexar Met has more lawsuits just in the past five years than some businesses and agencies get in a lifetime.