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Tue January 14, 2014
Brownsville ISD Lawyer Not Satisfied With TWIA Statement About Racist Emails
An attorney representing the Brownsville Independent School District in a lawsuit against the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association said he is appalled by the state agency’s reaction to a new set of 854 emails sent between TWIA employees and their private partners, some of which contain the same offensive and racist terms that were discovered in the latter part of 2013.
The district is suing TWIA over an unpaid insurance claim from 2008's Hurricane Dolly, alleging that the agency did not pay the claim because of discrimination within the organization.
Steve Mostyn, who represents Brownsville ISD in the case, said the damages for the district are estimated at over $40 million.
TWIA was asked by the court to turn over any correspondence that was sent both to and from TWIA officials that contain terms referenced in a first set of emails.
The agency released a statement on the emails yesterday, but Mostyn said he isn't satisfied:
"It’s more of the same stuff that we’ve seen in the past," Mostyn said. "Some of this is even more blatant, and for me it comes back to the fact that I’ve got a school down there that continues to leak today and a company which has admitted they have mishandled the claim but continues to do nothing to rectify that problem. But what they continue to do is put out press releases."
In the statement, TWIA acknowledged that some of the emails were offensive but said it did not represent a "culture of racism" and that the handling of claims was not then, and is not now, compromised by any racist attitudes.
TWIA General Manager John Polak writes:
"I speak for the executive leadership team at TWIA when I say we are disturbed by and apologize for the sentiments expressed in those messages."
Polak wrote that TWIA is now under new management:
"Most of the executive leadership team at TWIA—and 100% of the association’s management in its claims and underwriting departments—has been replaced."
Mostyn said that isn’t necessarily true because in 2011, under the current management, a TWIA claims manager was terminated after being caught sending an email with racist and offensive material.
Mostyn said he contends TWIA’s assessment that a majority of the emails were simply inappropriate jokes:
"They are not jokes, this is the senior vice-president of the company or the vice-president in charge of claims to adjusters and the head of adjusting companies by the way like Brush Country, who adjusted 20,000 or so claims in which they are referring to African-Americans," Mostyn said. "The person writing the email is referring to African-Americans using the n-word or calling Mexican-Americans 'lazy.""
Since the emails were made public, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the Texas Legislature have asked for an investigation of TWIA.
View the newly-released emails below: