LA MARQUE — A jury Thursday awarded the former school district police chief $83,236.
The jury of five men and five women found that Russel Washington, who was fired in a 4-3 vote by La Marque school trustees in 2010, was given a chance to defend his employment to the board: jurors found that former Trustee Cynthia Bell-Malveaux, who voted to terminate the chief’s contract, had a bias that deprived Washington of due process and a fair hearing. At the time of the vote, Bell-Malveaux had a pending defamation lawsuit against Washington.
The former police chief was awarded $7,265 in back wages, $5,562 in local leave and $70,049 in damages for mental anguish.
Washington testified that he has struggled to find work in law enforcement since he was fired in 2010. The La Marque native said he also developed a stress-induced illness that made it difficult to keep down food.
He filed a federal lawsuit alleging wrongful termination against the school district in 2012, after a post-termination hearing and unsuccessful attempts to get back his job.
Washington was fired while under indictment on a charge of falsifying records to obtain a car title. Those charges were later dismissed.
Former Superintendent Ecomet Burley placed the then-police chief on paid administrative leave when news of the pending indictment came to light, several district employees testified during the trial.
Ollie Ford, the former director of human resources for the district, said Washington was given several opportunities to explain why he was the subject of a criminal investigation.
Ford said Washington was directed to give district administrators a statement defending his position, but only supplied a three-sentence letter from his attorney.
Testimony from current trustees about the March 25, 2010, board meeting at which Washington was fired revealed that there was a discussion about whether Bell-Malveaux had a conflict of interest voting on the employment of a man she was suing then.
The former trustee later dropped her lawsuit against Washington.