Artesia city clerk, former HR exec sue city manager, 3 council members
The city of Artesia’s city clerk as well as its former human resources manager are suing the city, the former city manager and three City Council members, alleging a failure to properly address city employee complaints about gender discrimination and harassment, election and fiscal misconduct and other issues involving the then-city manager.
City Clerk Ernesto Sanchez and former human resources manager Boyd Horan brought separate lawsuits against the city, former City Manager William Rawlings and Council members Tony Lima, Monica Manalo and Ali Taj. Horan and Sanchez both allege intentional infliction of emotional distress and a violation of the state Labor Code, while Horan additionally alleges retaliation.
Both seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. A representative for the city did not reply to a request for comment on the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuits brought Friday.
Rawlings and the city parted ways in October after complaints by staff members about his fitness to lead.
Horan was hired in January 2018 and reported to Rawlings, who prohibited him from speaking to council members about any issues or complaints raised either by Horan any other city employee, Horan’s suit states.
However, in November 2020, the City Council approved a policy allowing city employees to take their complaints to the city attorney and not Rawlings, so last May Horan spoke to City Attorney Hong Doa Nguyen about “the litany of concerns many employees had raised with him about City Manager Rawlings,” the Horan suit states.
The workers’ complaints included gender discrimination and harassment, pregnancy discrimination, unlawful retaliation, election misconduct, fiscal misconduct and instructing employees to engage in unlawful conduct on behalf of the city, the Horan suit states.
However, Lima, Monica Manalo and Taj voted against an investigation into what Horan had reported and the council subsequently reinstated the previous city policy that required workers to take complaints to Rawlings, even when the issues involved him, the Horan suit states.
Rawlings then stopped nearly all communication with Horan and stripped him of some of his responsibilities, the suit alleges.
In September, Horan found out that Rawlings wanted to fire an employee who had complained he had not received adequate notice that another employee in his same department had tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Horan suit.
Horan reported what he knew to Mayor Rene Trevino, telling the mayor that firing an employee for complaining about workplace safety was unlawful, the Horan suit states. Although Trevino said he would bring the issue to the city attorney, Horan was fired a week later “in complete retaliation for his various complaints about Rawlings,” the Horan suit states.
Sanchez was hired in February 2016 and promoted to City Clerk in July 2018, his suit states.
In August 2020, Rawlings told Sanchez that any action having to do with elections had to be brought before him, including any communications with any prospective candidates, the Sanchez suit states.
“This caused unnecessary delay in providing application packages to at least two city of Artesia residents who expressed an interest in becoming candidates for the City Council,” the Sanchez suit alleges.
Sanchez complained to Horan about Rawlings’ alleged actions, but withdrew the complaint after Horan told him he would have to bring any issues to the city manager, the Sanchez suit states.
As with Horan, Rawlings allegedly began treating Sanchez more harshly after the City Council reinstated the policy requiring city workers to take any complaints to the city manager, on numerous occasions stripping Sanchez of his duties and generally ostracizing him, the Sanchez suit states.
The city manager also “continued unabatedly to engage in unlawful misconduct and continued to direct Mr. Sanchez and others to do the same,” according to the Sanchez suit, which also states the City Clerk “has been subjected to intolerable working conditions that have made it nearly impossible to continue working for the City of Artesia.”