Final settlement with former Houston Community College Chancellor comes to $850,000

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The settlement for former Houston Community College System Chancellor Renee Byas voted comes after a legal tab that has surpassed $1 million. (KTRK)

The settlement with fired Houston Community College System Acting Chancellor Renee Byas will come to $850,000, ending a year-long legal battle but with HCC taxpayers still trying to figure out the final tab.

Of the total settlement, $500,000 is slated to go to Byas. Her attorney will receive $350,000.

This final payday for Byas comes in the wake of trustees voting Monday on an initial $150,000 settlement. The additional cash, detailed in settlement documents made public Thursday, and which brings the payday for Byas and her attorney to $850,000, comes from the college's insurance, according to officials.

None of that settlement money includes the attorneys fees racked up by the college, which is over $1 million, according to records and interviews.

That means the total tab in public money so far is close to $2 million.

It's not clear what the final tally will be.

"I'm not sure, but I hope it stays under $3 million," said HCC Trustee Dave Wilson, the lone vote against the settlement.

The soaring legal tab and the controversy surrounding it was first reported August 7 by Ted Oberg Investigates.

See that investigation here.

HCC officials say Byas was fired last August, in part, for "insubordination." Byas has claimed she was fired for talking to the FBI about trustees trying to steer contracts to friends and family members.

There are other provisions in the settlement, too.

HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado provides Byas a recommendation letter for future employers saying that "Ms. Byas was dedicated to HCC, and I observed that she always had HCC's best interests in mind."

HCC also must reflect in Byas' personnel file that she is "rehire eligible."

Byas, though, had to promise not to re-apply to HCC. She also must return or destroy any HCC documents she took with her when she left last year.

Read the full settlement document here.

Wilson has voiced unhappiness about the deal since the initial vote Monday.

"I think the college made a mistake by settling," he said. "We were shaken down. She (Byas) made allegations that we're all crooks and we're not all crooks."

College officials have said that its legal insurance will likely keep its costs in total to the taxpayer to around $300,000. Both the chancellor and the chairman of the Board of Trustees have both said that they want to put the settlement behind them.

"I'm excited about moving and focusing our energy on transformation and student success and the growth of the institution," Maldonado said. "I'm excited about moving forward."

Maldonado said he couldn't speak specifically about the settlement, saying it was a personnel matter, but did say there were no more pricey settlements on the horizon.

HCC Trustee Chairman Zeph Capo said he was looking forward to focusing on students rather than lawsuits.

"This lets us move forward and get on with the work of educating our students," Capo said.

The settlement with Byas is the third high-priced, high-profile settlement with college administrators in two years. The other recent settlements with a previous chancellor and her aide came to $650,000 and $600,000 each.
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