Board members terminated Houston First’s CEO 11 months before her retirement, but she’s not going quietly

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Earlier this week, the board of the Houston’s convention and tourism bureau reportedly fired its president/CEO after she announced she would be retiring at the end of the year.

Dawn Ullrich, the leader of Houston First since its launch in 2011, stated she would be retiring at the end of 2018, but would continue her duties throughout the rest of the year.

A few hours after Ullrich’s announcement, however, Houston First chairman David Mincberg stated the board voted to oust Ullrich and seek a new president and CEO.

Mincberg later said in an interview he and the board did not want a “lame-duck CEO” to hold the position for 11 months:

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“After carefully considering your expressed desire to serve for the duration of 2018 and complete ongoing projects, Houston First believes that it is in the best interest of the Corporation to accelerate the necessary transition,” Mincberg wrote in a letter to Ullrich on Tuesday.

Ullrich responded back with a letter stating she announced her retirement early “out of courtesy,” describing her dismissal further as unlawful:

“Your effort to treat my notice of retirement as a letter of resignation that you could put into effect immediately is unlawful, discriminatory and retaliatory,” she reportedly wrote in response. “You will be hearing from my counsel shortly with respect to the action you have taken.”

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Ullrich said she retained attorney David Feldman, who told the Houston Chronicle he and Ullrich “are determining how to proceed against” Houston First in a potential lawsuit.

The former CEO maintains only the mayor can fire her, since this position nominated her for the role, confirmed by City Council.

Despite these allegations, Mincberg maintains the Houston First bylaws allow the board to relieve “any officer elected or appointed by the board of directors:”

Meanwhile, Houston First is reportedly looking for new leaders who can build on their legacy of working to bring more convention and tourism business to a city known more for highways and hurricanes than vacation attractions.

This is a developing story.

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