UPDATED: Veronica Bass's Overpaid Union Dues: Like Her, Judge Is Exasperated HISD & HFT Can't Settle Things

Categories: Education

Photo by Margaret Downing
Veronica Bass fights on
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.

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.

Follow Hair Balls News on Facebook and on Twitter @HairBallsNews.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

I used to work at HISD...and I can assure you that the attorney fees on both side cost way more than $1k. Both HISD and HFT made the mistake of not settling this swiftly and now they are afraid because this is not only about ms. Bass' claim...but the claim of several others who have overpaid their dues. They should each have paid $500 and been done with the matter. But then again...who is actually expecting HISD and HFT to agree on anything?

Gayle Fallon
Gayle Fallon

There are numerous misstatements in this story.       1.  Prior to the litigation, HFT offered to refund the double payment.  However, we did ask HISD to get us the payment records which they did.     2.  In mediation, the union offered again to repay the double payment plus filing fees. Ms. Bass accepted the offer initially and then reneged.     3.  Ms. Bass asked for her overpayment back to 2004.  HISD records show she was not a member in 2004 and paid us no dues that year.     4.  Ms. Bass has asked for a refund of over $1,100.  HISD payroll records show her overpayment to be under that amount.     5.  HFT has an obligation to verify and provide proof of a debt prior to issuing a check to anyone.  Ms. Bass never provided a shred of evidence regarding the overpayment other than her assertions which proved to be only partially accurate.

Unlike most newspapers, the Houston Press did not follow a basic element of jopurnalistic integrity - asking all sides for a comment.  Consequently, the Press relayed facts to the public that can be proven to be inaccurate.

And HFT will not pay thousands of dollars to our attorneys.  This is an insurance case.

Joanna Pasternak
Joanna Pasternak

This "update" has so many factual errors that the entire thing is garbage.  The reporter did not call HFT, but relied totally on Ms Bass for information.  Bass gave no documentation to HFT of what she was owed, and since all amounts were from over two years ago, it took some time to try and figure it out, we kept her posted as we searched and had HISD search back records.  The amount was well below what she claims.  Actually, HFT through Atty. Tritico offered a settlement of all over payments in mediation but Bass rejected it.  The judge dismissed the case telling Bass that HFT had no responsibility but that HISD might and she was free to come back and try again, which she did.  Next time, check the facts.  


The last two sentences say it all. Instead of doing the ethical thing and giving this young lady money that is rightfully hers, both HISD and HFT choose to fight tooth-and-nail over a few hundred dollars that aren't even theirs. Instead of doing the fiscally-responsible thing and settling this conflict out-of-court, both HISD and HFT will likely pay attorneys thousands of dollars. HISD just gave Dr. Grier a$68,000 performance bonus  - then they steal from a woman who makes less than $20,000/year. Shame on HISD. HFT purports to advocate on behalf of school employees - then turns their back on a member who actually needs some help. Shame on HFT.

While Ms. Bass could have avoided this situation by more carefully scrutinizingher pay stub, there was no reason for her to suspect that either HISD or HFTwere double-dipping. A mistake was made. Own up to it. Pay the woman hermoney.

Many years ago, HISD was in the news for over-paying several employeesseveral hundreds of dollars. They corrected this problem by deducting a small portion of the employees' paychecks over the next several months. Honestmistake. Honest solution. 

Gayle Fallon
Gayle Fallon

A check for over $500 was sent to Ms. Bass prior to court action.  She returned it to HFT.Her full claim is not substantiated by the payroll records. 

Now Trending

Houston Concert Tickets

From the Vault