This article has been corrected to show the estimated amount Jim Maynard was awarded.
Two former Denton employees who allege wrongful termination had their jury awards slashed toward the end of a brief court hearing Monday afternoon.
Michael Grim and Jim Maynard were awarded nearly $4 million by a jury in February, most of which was for emotional pain and suffering.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office intervened in June to uphold an existing statute that caps payments for past mental anguish at $250,000 in whistleblower cases.
Dallas Judge Marty Hoffman ruled alongside the state’s recommendation Monday afternoon. Grim and Maynard may still be paid for lost wages and benefits, but those accounted for a much smaller portion of the previously awarded $3.9 million.
Eric Roberson, the lawyer representing the two plaintiffs, said Grim and Maynard would receive roughly $1.7 million and $1.1 million, respectively. Those amounts are down significantly from the previous $2.1 million and $1.8 million awarded by a jury in February.
Until Hoffman made his ruling Monday, Roberson said he was hopeful the judge would reexamine the cap.
Attorneys for the pair argued that Denton City Council member Keely Briggs had leaked internal documents to the media and that the city fired Grim and Maynard as retaliation for them reporting the leak. Briggs was never a party to the suit, nor was she sanctioned or disciplined in connection with the allegations.
Roberson argued Monday they should receive front pay because they are not eligible for reinstatement.
“Is that same City Council member still there?” Hoffman asked, referring to Briggs.
Briggs’ term has not yet expired, and she is one of three candidates for mayor in the Nov. 3 elections. Fellow council member Gerard Hudspeth and delivery driver Michael Lee Mitchell are the other contenders for the position. Neither Briggs nor Hudspeth would retain their seat on the City Council if they lose.
Alison Ashmore, a defense attorney hired by the city, argued there was no evidence reinstatement wasn’t feasible for Grim and Maynard.
Judge Hoffman ultimately disagreed, opening up the possibility the pair could receive front pay. That would mean they would be guaranteed to a career’s worth of money if they are not able to make up the difference with another job.
An appeal seemed unavoidable by the time Monday’s hearing closed.
Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Ashmore said she wasn’t authorized to comment on the case. A city spokesperson also declined an interview or to issue a statement.