Central Health settles Wallace lawsuit

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Central Health's offices at 1111 E. Cesar Chavez St., with a photo of Larry Wallace superimposed on the facade through our graphics.

Fired executive signs settlement agreement for $99,316

It’s not the $1 million-plus he sought but Larimen Thaddeus “Larry” Wallace has signed a Settlement Agreement with Travis County Healthcare District, dba Central Health, for less than a tenth of the money he sought in a federal wrongful termination lawsuit.

Colin Walsh

Wallace got 60 percent of the settlement, $59,265.99 and his attorney, Colin Walsh of Austin-based Wiley Walsh PC, collected the remainder.

Wallace’s employment with Central Health was terminated in early December 2019 as a result of a sexual harassment allegation filed by a female member of Central Health’s Board of Managers. At that time he was making an annual salary of $297,950.

The board member’s complaint was corroborated through an investigation conducted by the Travis County Attorney’s Office.

Wallace, an African American, filed complaints claiming racial discrimination and retaliation for having previously filed both internal and EEOC complaints of racial discrimination being the basis of his termination. Neither complaint was substantiated.

The EEOC gave Wallace a letter of permission to file a lawsuit. He did so in state district court October 29, 2020. Central Health then moved the case to federal court.

The settlement agreement bars either side from commenting to media or by any other means issuing a statement other than what’s in the agreement itself:

“Central Health and Mr. Wallace agree that there are disputed issues between them and have jointly agreed to resolve the claims Mr. Wallace has asserted against Central Health. Central Health continues to deny Mr. Wallace’s allegations of discrimination and retaliation and reiterates its commitment to maintaining a workplace free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.”

Both sides agreed to bear their own costs of suit and attorney fees.

Stephanie Rojo

Central Health was represented by Stephanie Rojo, a partner with Thompson Coe Cousins & Irons LLP.

What triggered Wallace’s termination?

The Bulldog’s investigation into Wallace’s termination determined the event that precipitated his downfall happened September 19, 2019, in a packed Hilton Hotel ballroom at The EquitySpace Summit. In front of that crowd, Wallace was presented an Equity Warriors Award for leading equity transformation in the health and wellness industry. It was a significant honor.

Yet only moments later something happened that brought his downfall.

Wallace’s memo recounting the incident states that the female board member approached his table to congratulate Wallace and request a photo with him. “I complied with her request and two photos were taken. She took the first photo using the selfie mode on her phone and then asked someone at the table to take the second photo.

“During the second photo, I placed my arm around her waist/mid-back area, which is a common posing position and is in no way sexual. At no time did I feel I was imposing upon her (redacted) or acting inappropriately, especially given our history of similar interactions. She never stated she was uncomfortable or offended during the photo shoot and departed my table afterward. I did not see the photos.”

In responding to The Austin Bulldog’s public information request, Central Health obtained a ruling from the Texas Attorney General’s office to allow withholding a copy of the county attorney’s investigation results. The AG also ruled that the photographs taken at the time of the triggering event could be withheld.

Not an isolated incident

The Bulldog’s investigation showed that female employees of Central Health had made complaints about Wallace’s conduct going back as far as 2014. These complaints were documented in his personnel file.

Regina Williams

In 2016, Wallace was given training in “sexual harassment avoidance” by attorney Regina C. “Gina” Williams. She wrote a report of that training that states, “I explained that going forward, the best course of action would be for an executive in particular to be above the fray by avoiding sexist comments and jokes and touching in the first place.”

That training apparently did not put a stop to Wallace’s inappropriate behavior.

The Bulldog interviewed and published statements by two women, one a current Central Health employee, the other a former Central Health employee. Both spoke on condition their names would not be published.

The current employee said, “I speak as someone who was on the receiving end of several inappropriate comments,” she said. “He said a number of things about my physical appearance. And on a number of occasions he would have a hand linger too long on a back or on an arm. It was deeply uncomfortable. He did this to people who reported to him directly or indirectly and I think to others.

“I wanted to let you know, whatever prompted the investigation and dismissal revealed a pattern of inappropriate behavior that stretched back years,” she said. “If this (settlement) gets paid out, what does it say about real racial discrimination (given) his long and sordid history of inappropriate comments?”

Photo of Ken MartinTrust indicators: Ken Martin has been doing investigative reporting in the three-county Austin metro area since 1981. His aggressive reporting twice garnered first-place national awards from the National Newspaper Association for investigative reporting. Both of those projects resulted in successful felony criminal prosecutions, one for a Williamson County commissioner, the other for a con man based in Austin. You can read more about Ken on the About page.

Links to related documents:

Compromise Settlement Agreement and Release, April 15, 2021 (22 pages)

Larry Wallace memo to Central Health Board of Managers, October 23, 2019 (2 pages)

U.S. District Court Order in Larimen Wallace v. Travis County Healthcare District, dba Central Health in which Wallace dismissed all claims, April 21, 2021 (1 page)

Other related documents are linked in the previous stories.

Related Bulldog coverage:

Central Health negotiating settlement in million dollar lawsuit, February 2, 2021

Defendant Central Health goes on offense, November 9, 2020

Former Central Health exec sues for $1 million-plus, November 5, 2020

When the Me Too movement collides with Black Lives Matter something’s gotta give, October 30, 2020

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