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Houston district settles retaliation suit brought by former auditor

Oct. 2, 2018
Richard Patton will receive about $205,000 and his lawyers will get about $145,000 to end the litigation.

The former chief auditor of the Houston Independent School District will receive about $205,000 and his lawyers will get about $145,000 in a settlement of a retaliation lawsuit he brought against the school district

The Houston Chronicle reports that the settlement comes after follows two years of litigation initiated by former district auditor Richard Patton.

Patton contended that school board members retaliated against him by not renewing his contract in 2016. At the time, Patton and other district administrators were embroiled in allegations of misconduct related to the district’s $1.9 billion construction bond program and Patton’s workplace conduct.

Under terms of the agreement, both sides agreed “not to disparage each other” and to provide the following statement when asked about the lawsuit: “The parties have resolved this dispute, and are pleased to put this matter and the corresponding expense behind them.”

Patton was chief auditor from 2014 to 2016.

The dispute largely began in 2015, when Patton’s office issued an audit blaming cost overruns in the district’s bond program on insufficient bidding and inadequate oversight. In subsequent months, Patton notified law enforcement officials of possible wrongdoing.

Administrators under then-Superintendent Terry Grier responded by questioning Patton’s bond audit practices, asserting that his findings were “reckless,” “based on flawed methodology” and reflected “a profound lack of understanding of the Houston economic climate.”

A subsequent audit by an outside firm blamed the $212 million in cost overruns largely on inflation, while noting “weak or nonexistent” policies related to oversight.

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