Galveston dispatchers claim city failed to pay for work after Hurricane Ike

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Apr. 9, 2009, 7:00am

Satellite view of Hurricane Ike

GALVESTON – A couple of public safety dispatchers employed by the city of Galveston allege the city refused to fully pay them for their work during Hurricane Ike, recent court documents say.

Ted Nugent and Susan Angel's lawsuit, which was filed in Galveston County District Court on Apr. 9, says the plaintiffs were compensated for the time they manned the city's emergency communication systems throughout the Category 2 storm's assault on Galveston Island but did not receive a cent for their shifts in the aftermath.

Nugent and Angel claim the city paid other employees who worked the same duration as them, and were even granted permission to leave while the plaintiffs were forced to stay.

"The plaintiffs seek equal treatment, payment that they are due, and the respect that they are due for their heroic efforts to help their fellow emergency personnel and stranded citizens when they were in peril," the suit says.

According to the suit, Nugent was in the process of securing his residence while Angel was scheduled for a two-day vacation prior to Ike's Sept. 13 landfall when the city ordered them to report to duty.

The defendant housed them and other essential personnel at the San Luis Resort, Spa & Conference Center. Workers were not allowed to return to their homes, even to check on their family members, the suit says.

Upon their arrival at the hotel, Nugent and Angel were immediately told to answer calls from various agencies, including those from out-of-town supposedly unfamiliar with Galveston or any of its procedures.

In addition, they fielded calls from numerous citizens who pleaded for rescue from the rising floodwaters to no avail.

The plaintiffs describe the situation they were in as sheer bedlam.

"The plaintiffs were forced to tell some of the callers that emergency personnel had no way to reach them," the suit says. "The dispatchers hung up and cried because they had to tell some people that they were unable to help them."

"The emotional pain for the plaintiffs at times was almost unbearable, but they kept working," the suit says.

Days after the storm, the dispatchers were ordered to transfer operations back to the regular dispatch center. Lacking sufficient manpower, they worked virtually around the clock without food, water, and electricity, the suit says.

The defendant apparently told the dispatchers they were going to get paid for the time they were required to remain in Galveston, but the plaintiffs were paid only a portion of said time, according to the suit.

Consequently, Nugent and Angel filed a grievance, which they say was only a delay tactic.

The dispatchers, who are represented by Houston attorney Barbara J. Gardner, sue for restitution covering mental anguish, withheld wages, and loss of enjoyment of life.

They also demand a jury trial.

Galveston County 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox is presiding over the case.

Case No. 09CV0458

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