For the second time this year, 12 area residents determined a Jefferson County official is guilty of discrimination, this time hammering a $400,000 verdict against the county where they reside.
On March 4, a different jury nailed the county with a million dollar verdict, finding that the county discriminated against former county employee Donna Davis.
Four months later, jury selection began in the case of Ha Penny Nguyen vs. Jefferson County.
Nguyen filed suit against the county and Jefferson County Precinct 8 Justice of the Peace Tom Gillam III on June 7, 2006, alleging she was the victim of discrimination and retaliation.
On June 14 jurors determined the defendants violated Nguyen’s constitutional rights and subjected her to adverse employment actions.
According to the charge of the court, jurors awarded Nguyen $150,000 for her mental anguish, $150,000 in lost wages and $100,000 in loss of benefits.
The suit alleges Gillam only trusted African American employees and sought to terminate Nguyen, a Vietnamese woman.
She alleges she was the victim of retaliation for claiming grievances against Gillam and reporting conduct violations against the former JP, Thurman Bartie, and testifying against him.
The suit says Bartie is a political ally of Gillam.
“As a result of the constant harassment, Nguyen’s job at the Justice Court became so intolerable, she began to become highly anxious, fearful, experiencing insomnia and uncontrollable outbursts of weeping,” the suit states.
“Unable to stand the stress and anxiety, and in order to save her career … Nguyen was forced to quit her position … and take a position for less pay in a different sector of the county infrastructure on October 19, 2004.”
Missouri City attorney Larry Watts represents Nguyen.
The county is represented by Assistant District Attorney Thomas Rugg.
Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th District Court, is presiding over the case.
Case No. B177-132