Bonusgate: City Employess Contest Termination

Four city employees are contesting their termination in a civil hearing today. The four were fired after an investigation showed they falsified documents and forged signatures to receive pay increases and bonuses. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports from city hall.

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Four former employees from the office of Mayor Pro Tem Carol Alvarado are trying to get their jobs back through a civil hearing process. The day-long hearing started with arguments between city attorneys and attorneys representing the former employees over procedural matters and evidence submitted. It was a lengthy process of wrangling over documents and details.

Testimony began in the afternoon. Attorneys for both sides questioned an investigator from the city's Office of Inspector General. The questions centered on whether Rosita Hernandez, Christopher Mays, Florence Watkins and Theresa Orta illegally received pay raises, promotions and bonuses. The OIG investigator testified the four received as many as three raises, two promotions and 13 bonuses each. City Administrator Anthony Hall testified the violations by Rosita Hernandez were the most egregious example he has seen in his 25 years in city government.

The four employees were terminated after an investigation found they received more than $143,000 since 2004. The city has stated those bonuses and raises were not properly authorized, but the former employees say there was nothing improper about them. Two of the employees say Alvarado actually approved the bonuses. A three-member commission is hearing the testimony and will make the decision whether to reinstate the employees or confirm their termination. Reporting from city hall, Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.

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