For nearly six years, George Green labored anonymously as the sole architect for the Texas Department of Human Services. It was 1989 and life was good: He had a job he enjoyed, he worked in a state he loved, and he was sharing it all with the woman he planned to marry.
All that changed, almost overnight, when he blew the whistle on a lucrative kickback scheme and found himself in a high-profile legal battle with the state. It was a decision that cost him almost everything — his job, his home, his career, his girlfriend and nearly his life.
A Texas jury determined in October 1991 that he had been fired in retaliation for reporting the misconduct and awarded him $13.7 million in compensatory and punitive damages — the largest whistleblower judgment in the state’s history.
But the award didn’t land Mr. Green in the lap of luxury. The Texas Legislature refused to honor the jury’s verdict, igniting a series of court challenges with first state and later federal officials that have consumed nearly 20 years of his life.
The steady stream of lawyers, costly legal briefs and court appearances left him almost penniless.
“I lived all my life with what I thought was decency and courtesy, always respecting and deferring to authority,” Mr. Green said. “But I didn’t understand just how fragile my rights really were. The government says it will give you fair and equal treatment if you have truth on your side.
“But I had truth on my side and I lost. I lost everything but my self-respect.”
Now 61 and unemployed, Mr. Green lives with his elderly parents in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, 50 miles northwest of Austin. A native Texan, he has not been able to find work as an architect — most local firms are afraid to hire him because of his notoriety.
Mr. Green, a 1972 graduate of the University of Texas, works on his family’s small ranch but spends much of his time preparing for his next court challenge. It was his rapt attention to those court appearances that eventually caused the woman he loved to leave.
In November 1995, the state — at the urging of a key legislator — negotiated a $13.7 million settlement in the case, at a time the debt had grown to $20.3 million and was accumulating interest at $5,500 a day.
But $5 million went to his trial lawyer, $3.5 million to the Internal Revenue Service, $1 million to an investor who tried to help him collect the money, and most of the rest to a dozen lawyers Mr. Green hired in an all-consuming effort to collect the settlement and defend him against the federal government.
Between 1991 and 1995, while engaged in his efforts to collect the judgment, Mr. Green’s mental and physical health deteriorated significantly and some of the cash went to pay for repeated hospitalizations for a bleeding ulcer.
A fateful discovery