UPDATE: HISD was dismissed from the case. A settlement was reached between Veronica Bass and HFT/AFT in Spring 2012.
When we first wrote about Veronica Bass in November 2011, the teacher's assistant had learned she'd been overpaying her union dues for years and been trying for months to get her money back from the Houston Federation of Teachers. Unable to resolve this, she filed a claim in small claims court, saying she was owed about $1,000.
It wasn't that the union was saying Bass, who makes about $18,600 a year, hadn't been overpaying her dues. HFT just said it was her responsibility to check her own paycheck stub and while it was willing to pay some money (the amount grew from an initial $53 to a final offer of $512.20), it wasn't going to pay her back everything.
Monday, Justice of the Peace Russ Ridgeway denied the requests of both HFT and the Houston ISD that they be removed from the small claims court suit filed by Bass, and also denied their requests to have the action dismissed "with prejudice," meaning she could never file it again.
David Gilbreath, representing HISD, piped up with a "We're immune," which caused Ridgeway to kindly point out with a small smile that there are exceptions to "governmental immunity," and that possible "negligence" was one of those.
Ridgeway said he wasn't deciding the case on Monday -- didn't know whether HISD or HFT had been negligent or not -- and wasn't going to hear any of the witnesses Bass had brought with her, but that he thought they should all "stay in the loop" and continue on in the case together. He professed some bemusesment that "No one wants to step up to the plate and claim [responsibility]" for the overpaid dues.
He noted that both attorneys -- Bass was representing herself -- kept saying: "It's not me; it's the other one."
Attorney Chris Tritico, representing HFT, kept repeating that the union had absolutely nothing to do with handling the dues money (well, we guess other than collecting it) and that it was up to Bass to resolve the issue with HISD. He insisted HFT had no responsibility for reconciling accounts between what Bass should have been and was paying.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
But that flies somewhat counter to what HFT President Gayle Fallon said back in November when she explained how tough it was for HFT to check over the dues records and how the union finally got a computer software program that would do it better.
Ridgeway urged the trio repeatedly to try to work this out on their own. In the meantime, Bass asked for a jury trial. Wonder how much all this will end up costing the district and the union? Guess it might be a lot more in attorney's fees than the $1,000.