TWIA to pay $7.9 million to Brownsville  school district in settlement

November 7, 2014

TWIA to pay $7.9 million to Brownsville school district in settlement

Posted: 7:23 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13, 2014

By Tim Eaton – American-Statesman Staff
Original Article:

The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association settled a lawsuit Monday with the Brownsville school district over unpaid claims, nearly a year after racist emails to and from top agency officials were uncovered in the case.

The quasi-governmental insurer of last resort agreed to pay $7.9 million to the district for claims that were not paid following Hurricane Ike in 2008, according to court records filed in state district court in Cameron County.

Jennifer Armstrong, spokeswoman with TWIA, said she could not comment on pending litigation, but another spokeswoman said in the past that race was never a factor when settling the claims.

John Greeley, spokesman for the Texas Department of Insurance, which has oversight over TWIA, said leaders within the department had not seen the court filing and wouldn’t comment Monday.

The Brownsville superintendent could not be reached for comment.

“It’s unfortunate that it took them this long to admit it,” said Houston lawyer Steve Mostyn, who represented the district in the case. “The settlement is significant.”

Now the district will be able to repair leaky roofs, Mostyn said.

Last year, Mostyn found the racist and hateful emails among nearly a million documents he obtained from TWIA through the discovery process in the case, leading him to conclude that “race was a factor considered in the denial of claims.”

Many of the emails are crude or offensive jokes or anti-immigrant “petitions” sent to and from high-ranking TWIA officials in 2008 and 2009. Several of the emails contained the most offensive terms for African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities and were sent to TWIA officials from people outside the agency. It has never been clear who many of those people are, or how TWIA officials responded.

One of the emails was forwarded by Bill Knarr, the now-deceased head of catastrophe claims at TWIA, to Reggie Warren, who once served as TWIA’s vice president of claims but no longer works for the association. The message contains offensive language about undocumented immigrants and proves that racism was acceptable within parts of TWIA, Mostyn said.

Expert coverage

Staff writer Tim Eaton, who has been covering the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association since 2010, broke the story in December 2013 on racist emails exchanged by top agency officials.