Former LaMarque employees file whistle-blower suit against city

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Oct. 5, 2010, 6:17am

GALVESTON - Two Galveston County women claim the city of La Marque fired them four months ago because they engaged in whistleblowing, recent court documents say.

In a lawsuit filed Sept. 13 against their former employer in Galveston County District Court, Lydia Alcala-Garcia and Janet Solis claim the city refused to address the reportedly illegal activities of City Manager Eric Gage and terminated them in June for filing a report with the Galveston County District Attorney's Office.

Alcala-Garcia was the city clerk while Solis worked as the director of human resources and court administrator. They held their positions until June 14, according to the suit.

Alcala-Garcia states she went to the La Marque City Council at the beginning of the year with allegations that Gage was deleting e-mails from an Open Records request to which she was responding. Among her job responsibilities is replying to such requests, she says.

The suit points out that Gage sat at Alcala-Garcia's desk and erased the e-mails, adding he ignored her pleas not to. The city council did not fully explore the issue, Alcala-Garcia claims.

A month after the city council meeting, the plaintiffs sought the assistance of the district attorney's office. They alleged Gage violated the state's Open Record and Open Meeting laws, committed payroll fraud, and used government property for personal gain.

According to the complaint, the accusations were also reported to La Marque Mayor Geraldine Sam, however, the defendant dismissed Alcala-Garcia and Solis shortly afterwards. The plaintiffs claim the only reason given for their termination was "using the city computer for political purposes," the original petition says.

Alcala-Garcia and Solis argue that the discussion and vote of their terminations was not fully disclosed to the public and the city acted out of retaliation to them reporting violations of the law.

Consequently, each complainant seeks at least $500,000 in damages as well as a jury trial.

Attorney Anthony P. Griffin of Galveston is representing Alcala-Garcia and Solis.

The case has been assigned to Galveston County 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox.

Case No. 10-cv-3018

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