Best Whistle-Blower Houston 2002 - Sam Levingston
The beauty of Houston, in a perverted way, is the wealth of opportunities for individuals to rise up amid corruption and misconduct and take their moral stand, consequences be damned. Just in the last year, there was the implosion of Enron, the callous cunning of Arthur Andersen and the market manipulations from other energy companies here. So has the Bayou City's moral backbone gone to the dogs? In this Best of Houston winner, we're proud to say it has. Sam Levingston, a 72-year-old veterinarian at the city's animal pound, wouldn't remain quiet about reports of atrocities: workers viciously mistreating dogs and cats, holding them under water with choke sticks. At least once, they even washed puppies down the drains of their cages. His investigations and reports to supervisors got him fired. He then had to endure the backlash of city allegations that he'd been canned for incompetence. While a pound spokeswoman continues to deny the awful actions there, a jury heard the facts -- and hit the city with a $1.2 million verdict. For Houston's sake, let's hope there are more Sam Levingstons in local government.