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Health director files suit against city officials alleging retaliation, unfair pay

Annette Rodriguez
Posted at 9:02 AM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-06 14:04:11-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health Director Annette Rodriguez has filed suit in federal court against several city officials alleging unfair pay and claims the city's withdrawal from the health district is a form of retaliation against her.

Rodriguez names Corpus Christi Mayor Paulette Guajardo, City Manager Peter Zanoni, Assistant City Manager Steven Viera, and Director of Human Resources Eyvon McHaney in the lawsuit.

According to the suit, Rodriguez claims city officials violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and Equal Pay Act and retaliated against her because she demanded proper pay.

The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court on Dec. 13. It came about two months after she accused Zanoni in an EEOC complaint of paying her and other women unfairly compared to male employees and also discriminating against her for her hearing disability.

She also filed an EEOC complaint against the city in 2014 alleging discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, and retaliation. In the filing, Rodriguez states "I have a history of objecting to discrimination on the 'city' side of my employment.

Rodriguez began working for the Health District in 2002 and later that same year she was appointed as the city's director of public health. At all "relevant times," Rodriguez has been employed by the city.

Additionally, Rodriguez claims the city has refused to pay overtime she has accrued since the city declared a public health emergency in March 2020 because of the pandemic. That total is nearly $200,000.

In the suit, Rodriguez said she complained about her pay to Zanoni soon after he was hired as City Manager in May 2019 and has tried to "resolve those concerns." It says that the defendants have not only refused to pay her the wages to which she is entitled, but also retaliated against her "jointly and individually" for voicing those concerns.

Rodriguez's suit also states that comments made by the defendants and other city employees have been untrue. Specifically, allegations by the defendants that Rodriguez made $600,000 was untrue, along with claims she made more than National Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci.

"I don't have a problem with people knowing what my salary is. My salary is $170,000," Rodriguez said. "That's what I make. So for them to say I make $600,000, you know, that's just wrong. That's inaccurate information."

In an interview with KRIS 6 News in October, Corpus Christi Finance Director Heather Hurlbert broke down pay received by Rodriguez, and multiple documents confirmed those figures.

From January of 2020 to October 15, 2021, Rodriguez made nearly $300,000 in regular pay. Overtime costs of just over $200,000 also increased the costs owed by the city to the Texas Municipal Retirement System (TMRS). During that time frame, Rodriguez received nearly $110,000 into TMRS.

As a salaried, city employee at the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District, Rodriguez would normally not be eligible for overtime.

We've reached out to the City of Corpus Christi for a response, but haven't heard back.