Spring, Texas – A court in Houston has removed Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 (ESD 11) commissioners as individual defendants in a lawsuit brought by its current ambulance provider, Cypress Creek EMS (CCEMS).
In her ruling, Judge Latosha Lewis Payne in Harris County’s 55th Judicial District Court also dismissed claims that ESD 11 violated the Texas Open Meetings Act.
“These are big wins for ESD 11,” said Brian Trachtenberg of Greathouse Holloway McFadden Trachtenberg in Houston, who along with firm attorney Anna Phillips represents ESD 11. “There was no basis whatsoever for the commissioners to be added to this suit as individuals. That was just harassment, pure and simple, by a government contractor that was fired. The Texas Open Meetings Act claims were completely frivolous. I’m glad the court saw it that way, too.”
ESD 11 previously contracted with non-profit CCEMS for emergency medical services for approximately 600,000 people in north Harris County. Last year, ESD 11 gave CCEMS 360 days’ notice that its contract is canceled and has been making plans to run its own ambulance service beginning in September.
In response, CCEMS filed suit against ESD 11, claiming breach of contract. A counterclaim filed by ESD 11 alleges a number of issues, among them the fact that CCEMS cannot account for a $10 million budget discrepancy.
Additional claims in ESD 11’s filing include:
- CCEMS management acknowledged it has been using its maintenance facility to service private vehicles owned by employees and friends of CCEMS while on the clock and ESD 11’s dime. One of the cars serviced was that of CCEMS CEO Wren Nealy.
- CCEMS overbilled for 9-1-1 Communications Center services. Initial estimates show that CCEMS has overcharged ESD 11 $3.3 million since 2016.
- CCEMS wrongly used taxpayer money to pay administrative and other employees, contrary to agreements that tax funds would pay for EMS and Communications Center staff only.
- CCEMS secured a loan using ambulances owned by ESD 11 as collateral without ESD 11’s knowledge or consent.
The case is Cypress Creek Emergency Services Association v. Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11, et al., Cause No. 2020-61450, in the 55th Judicial District Court in Harris County, Texas.