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Jury awards former TSC president more than $13M in damages

November 9, 2018

A federal jury has awarded former Texas Southmost College president Lily Tercero more than $13 million in damages for being fired during a sham termination hearing.

The verdict came late Thursday afternoon.

Tercero sued the college after it fired her in September 2016 for deliberately and recklessly failing to obtain windstorm insurance with board approval in compliance with state law; for allowing TSC checks to be stamped with signatures of people who were no longer trustees; for failing to timely search and fill the position of vice president for finance and administration; for failing to inform the board of the ailing nursing program and its pending suspension; for refusing a board member’s request that he personally sign and review checks in the amount of $10,000 or more and for not complying with a request for information sought by another member.

Tercero accused the school of pre-determining the outcome of her termination hearing, arguing she never had a fair shot during the public meeting.

The jury ruled that trustees did not have good cause to fire Tercero, that TSC breached her contract and that the trustees had already made up their minds to terminate the former president.

“They were trying to manufacture good cause where it didn’t exist,” Tercero’s attorney, Richard A. Illmer, said during closing arguments on Thursday.

The jury awarded Tercero $674.878.66 for lost earnings from her contract, which trustees voted to renew for three years in May 2016. After elections that same month, the trustees changed and a new majority fired her just months later.

The jury also awarded Tecero $12.5 million for diminished earning capacity and mental anguish.

During closing arguments, Illmer had only asked the jury to award Tercero the remainder of her contract and to determine what the jury felt was just compensation for diminished earning capacity and mental anguish.

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