METRO and former general counsel settle lawsuit

February 24, 2011 11:50:45 AM PST
METRO announced today that the agency and its former General Counsel have agreed to settle the lawsuit involving her wrongful termination and defamation claims last year.

Pauline Higgins filed a lawsuit in April 2010 alleging her firing two months earlier was the result of the administration's resistance to her efforts to bring the agency into compliance with state laws regarding document retention. Another Houston attorney, Lloyd Kelley, filed a lawsuit against METRO in January 2010 claiming improper document destruction.

In the wake of the Kelley lawsuit and the Higgins lawsuit, METRO's then-CEO Frank Wilson resigned in May. The Kelley lawsuit was settled last year.

METRO apologized to Higgins Thursday and said a settlement will serve the interests of all parties as the agency moves forward under new leadership.

"I appreciate the way Pauline conducted herself during this process," said METRO CEO George Greanias. "I am particularly grateful that Ms. Higgins has agreed to receive only payment for the attorney's fees that she has incurred and has additionally agreed to forgo any compensation for personal damages."

Higgins held a news conference Thursday afternoon to discuss the settlement. In a statement, she said, "METRO has accepted responsibility for the false statements it made about me to the media and acknowledged that it was improper to fire me in a February (2010) press conference laced with these false claims."

Higgins added, "I am proud that I was able to achieve this apology without costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. I will receive no money from METRO beyond reimbursement of attorney's fees and expenses that were necessary to get METRO to officially recognize that those statements were false."

The agency said it has since changed its documentation policy.