By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
But there's one organization where Linebarger Goggan can do no wrong: the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
In 2001, the conference gave the firm its Award for Excellence in Partnership for its collection efforts for the City of Dallas. In 2004, it gave the firm its similar-sounding-yet-totally-different Award for Outstanding Achievement in Partnership for its Chicago contract (which would be terminated four years later). The firm won the same award in 2007, for its work with the City of Houston's "Houston Hope" program, whereby delinquent properties in nine designated neighborhoods are foreclosed upon, purchased by the Land Assemblage Redevelopment Authority and sold to private developers and community development corporations for the building of affordable single-family housing. King says the firm waives its fees on the Houston Hope properties.
Now here's where Ryan's lawsuit gets really weird.
The meat of the complaint alleges that Ryan was promised Big Fancy money if the merger was successful and the resulting monolith landed the lucrative HISD contract. But while he was crucial to both, Ryan claims, he was left out in the cold.
"Time and again, the defendants led Ryan on with promises they never intended to fulfill," the suit states. "For example, Ryan was promised by Dale Linebarger during this period if the [HISD] account...was acquired, Ryan would be 'as rich as Juan Pena in the Valley.'"
Like Heard, Pena was a name partner who had come up with a cool way to make extra dough: bribery. In 2005, Pena pled guilty in federal court to bribing San Antonio city councilmen to land a city contract. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined $1 million. Prosecutors alleged he was worth $14.8 million.
So Ryan is now upset that he never made as much money as a dude who bribed public officials. When asked why he made sure to put that in writing in a public document, Ryan says, "I did not do anything dishonorable in my 11-plus years of association with them. I conducted myself in an aboveboard, first-class manner." Plus, he points out, the promise was made before the scandal came to light.
But Dale Linebarger says that the promise was never made, and that Ryan "is bringing it up and mentioning that name in an effort...to embarrass the law firm and essentially extort money from us."
Linebarger left the firm in 2006 and is now in private practice in Austin. He says Ryan was not integral to either the merger or the HISD contract, and that Linebarger had numerous discussions with Ryan about where exactly he stood in the firm.
"It's kind of like when the girlfriend threatens to call your wife," Linebarger says. "He made all of these allegations before he filed the lawsuit, and we told him he was incorrect and we disagreed with him and we offered him some compensation...in order to try to work it out with him."
As baseless as Linebarger believes the suit is, he was not surprised. Prior to suing, Ryan filed an unsuccessful age-discrimination complaint with the EEOC.
"They did seemingly purge the senior staff in the Houston office at the time they purged me," Ryan says. "So it was one way to fire something across their bow to see if they'd blink."
Apparently, they didn't.
"I would say that he had plenty of information and knowledge as to our difference in opinion on compensation," Linebarger says. "He also had the option, of course, of quitting and going to get a better job if he could've found one. Instead, he decided to wait about [ten] years and file a lawsuit."
To which Ryan says, "They're a very politically savvy and powerful group of people. That's another reason I took as long as I did to take that last formal step after every attempt at negotiating a settlement."
Ryan claims he passed up other opportunities out of loyalty to the firm, which leads us to the most head-scratching part of his claim: Ryan once considered filing a private lawsuit against the firm's biggest client — HISD, the very contract he claims to have been instrumental in landing.
According to Ryan's current lawsuit, Ryan owned a company with former HISD Superintendent Billy Reagan that hired teachers from Panama and the Philippines as part of the district's Highly Qualified Teachers program. But, the suit states, HISD terminated its business with that company, "because, as repeated by two high HISD officials, the principals in the district had 'cultural differences and difficulties' with those teachers, arguably an illegal reason with serious public policy implications."
Because Ryan chose not to sue HISD, the suit claims, the firm was unjustly enriched.
While you're wrapping your head around that one, chew on this bit of pretzel logic: The suit also claims that, while Ryan was still at the firm, it "deceptively convinced the Texas State Legislature to increase the [collection] fees which can only be paid to attorneys in Texas, unlike virtually every other state in the Union, from 15 percent to 20 percent, thereby tremendously increasing its profits."
Profits that would ostensibly cover the $7.5 million Ryan's asking for. (The suit does not clarify whether Ryan would collect from the firm's Ill-Gotten Gains Fund or the Totally Ethical Profits Account, but that's probably a question best left to the number crunchers).