Al Brady Claim Against the City of Moreno Valley
CLAIM AGAINST THE CITY OF MORENO VALLEY
The following narrative contains information responsive to Sections 3; 4, 5, 8,9, and 10:
In or about July 2008 Code Compliance Staff performed a number of weed abatements on properties owned by Jerry Stephens or managed by him. Mr. Stephens visited City Hall and complained about fees owed. When Code refused to dismiss the fees, Mr. Stephens threatened Staff, and stated, “Do you know who I am.”
In or about December 2008 I received a call from elected official Jesse Molina demanding all files past and present against Marcelo Co. I advised Council member Molina I would discuss the matter with the Community Development Director and the City Attorney’s Office to determine which records were accessible to him per the public records act. He stated “you just have the records ready for my wife who will be there tomorrow to pick them up.” I declined to provide him with the active files based upon past practices and once again advised Mr. Molina I would discuss his request with executive management. The conversation ended. The matter was referred to my boss, Kyle Kollar and City Attorney Bob Herrick for follow-up.
In or about February 2009 Code Compliance staff issued citations to Marcelo Co for Municipal Code violations on his properties.
In or about April 2009 Code Compliance personnel are asked to conduct exterior inspections on all of Marcelo Co’s properties, and provided the Moreno Valley City Attorney’s Office with a comprehensive list of Municipal Code violations for inclusion for potential criminal proceedings.
On or about August 3, 2010 Marcelo Co officially registered as a City Council candidate for the then up-coming election.
On or about September 21, 2010, Marcelo Co was scheduled to appear in Court regarding the code citations and resulting criminal proceedings.
On or about November 2, 2010, Marcelo Co was elected to the Moreno Valley City Council, and was sworn in on or about December 11, 2010. Council member Co immediately thereafter announced that he would be scrutinizing every City position and
Page 1 of 6
favored outsourcing planning and the City Attorney’s Office. Not so ironic that he focused on the Department within the City that had been involved in his criminal prosecution and the Department that had oversight of all developer projects within the City.
In or about March 2011, Attorney Michael Geller sent an accusatory email on behalf of Marcelo Co, to the City Attorney’s Office, City manager’s office and to all City Council members, in which he alleged that Code Compliance was selective in their enforcement. This allegation was based upon the fact that Code Compliance had requested Mr. Co obtain necessary permits and approvals for an un-permitted block wall located in the public right of way but we did not have active investigations against other homeowners on Atwood with similar issues. Code Staff initiated investigations on three other walls, we felt may have been constructed without permits on Atwood.
On or about August 31,201], Attorney Geller sends another email on behalf of Mr. Co, attacking Code Compliance and alleging Staff failed to follow-up on his concerns and is unfairly prosecuting Marcelo Co. Of the three complaints he filed, two of the un-permitted walls were removed and the third was permitted by the County prior to City incorporation. His email was malicious, accusatory and entirely not based upon fact.
On or about September 9, 20II Marcelo Co plead guilty to seven misdemeanor violations at three separate properties, and was sentenced to 8 hours community service, fines, a three years’ probation.
In or about December 2011 Council member Robin Hastings was to be appointed as mayor (her tum in the rotation). However, instead Council members Stewart, Co and Molina voted for Stewart to be Mayor.
On or about March 1, 2012 I met socially after work with Barry Foster, Director of Community and Economic Development. Mr. Foster was in the neighborhood of my residence for his daughter’s water polo practice. We met at Oggi’s in Corona. During our conversation Mr. Foster made complaints about Anne Schneider, stating that she was not flexible with developers and specifically mentioned the Sketcher’s and Universal Strike projects. Mr. Foster stated that he wished Ms. Schneider would quit and that he would like to get rid of her. I commented in response that Ms. Schneider could not be flexible with regard to building requirements.
On or about May 7, 2012 the City Manager’s Office request that Paul Early and I prepare a memorandum on the current code policies regarding administrative, civil, and criminal remedies. They also requested we detail other remedies used by other Code Compliance
Page 2 of 6
programs. I was advised by Barry Foster that this request was in response to concerns voiced by Marcelo Co and his attorney Michael Geller about the criminal complaint process.
On or about July 9, 2012 Barry Foster came into my office and asked if I had spoken to a person named Doug Whitney. I replied the name sounds familiar but I couldn’t recall) our conversation. I asked Barry who Mr. Whitney was and he replied Mr. Whitney is a major developer in Moreno Valley. He walked away. I recalled my conversation with Mr. Whitney regarding 13072 Teton Place. I contacted Barry and explained the nature of the conversation. He stated that Mr. Whitney was submitting an email to the City Manager containing his concerns and after he had a chance to the review the email he would get back to me.
On or about July 10, 2012 I ran into Barry and asked him if he had received Mr. Whitney’s email. He replied “yes, we will talk about it tomorrow.” Later that day I received an email meeting request from Barry to discuss Mr. Whitney’s case on July 11, 2013, at 10AM in his office.
On or about July 11, 2012 I reported to Barry’s Office at 9:55 AM. He requested I come back at 10AM. I returned to his office at 10AM and the HR Director, Tom DeSantis was in the room (obviously asked me to return because he had invited Tom to be present). I asked Barry why Tom was included in our meeting? He replied as an extra set of ears and because he happened to be in the area. I replied he’s always in the area, his office is next door. I advised them I was not comfortable with Tom present and that it appeared to me that they were conducting a HR investigation. They both assured me an investigation was not occurring. I provided Barry a copy of the case file which included all notes, photographs, notices, administrative citations, and a GIS aerial photo of the property, I explained the case was complaint generated for lack of required landscape materials and discarded trash stored in public view. I advised them staff had issued four separate notices and three administrative citations since the inception of the case. I explained to Barry and Tom that Mr. Whitney had requested a return call on his property. During our conversation, he requested an extension of the 30 day appeal period because he lost the ticket. I advised Mr. Whitney I could not extend the appeal period without just cause and losing the citation did not qualify as a valid reason. I advised Tom and Barry that the conversation was uneventful and non-confrontational which is why I did not recall the conversation on the 9th when Barry first approached me. Barry asked if I had other encounters with Mr. Whitney in the past. I replied “not that I’m aware of” Tom asked if I discussed Building Permits with him? I said “No.” Barry asked if we had additional cases against Mr. Whitney? I replied “not that I am aware of.” Barry then replied this whole matter doesn’t make any sense and your story is completely different than Mr.
Page 3 of 6
Whitney’s. I stated I have reason to mislead you, but it seems clear that developers do get special treatment here. Barry stated “we’re not giving him special treatment” to which I replied a meeting with a HR director is not normal protocol for a case like this. Barry Foster came by my office on or about July 16, 2012, and said the whole thing was a big misunderstanding due to Michael Geller. He stated Mr. Geller had sent an inaccurate email to the City Manager which generated our need for a meeting and that Mr. Whitney verified I was cordial to him. I requested a copy of the email Geller sent to the City Manager but Barry refused to provide the correspondence. I commented that someone should hold Mr. Geller accountable for making false allegations to which Barry replied that’s just Geller being Geller you’re not going to change the man. The conversation ended. Barry Foster also directed me to dismiss a $1,400.00 administrative citation issued to Mr. Whitney.
On or about September 10, 2012 I recalled seeing an article in the Press Enterprise regarding campaign contributions by Skechers, Highland Fairview, Jerry Stephens, Douglas Whitney and Marcelo Co to Owings and Molina’s campaign. They hold a campaign event at Michael Geller’s home (Council member Stewart’s partner) to support the candidates. I was also aware that Michael Geller run’s the Moreno Valley Taxpayer’s Association which has been a big contributor to several City Council candidates.
In or about November 2012 Cindy Miller contacted me and requested I meet with Marcelo Co. When I arrived Marcelo closed the door and provided me an unlawful detainer action he had filed against a resident that would not comply with code enforcement standards. Marcelo then asked me how I felt I was doing as the Code Manager for the City of Moreno Valley. I replied I think I’m doing a great job but how do you think I’m doing. He did not answer the question but said I should be aware that with the election of Tom Owings and the reappointment of Jesse Molina there are going to be a lot of changes in City and Code that I need to prepare for.
On or about December 4, 2012 the City Council comprised of Stewart, Co, Molina, Hastings and Batey evaluated City Attorney Robert Hansen. Co and Molina refuse to participate and leave while the others gave Mr. Hansen a stellar evaluation.
On or about December 11, 2012 City Council members Tom Owings and Victoria Baca are sworn into office, and request another evaluation of Robert Hansen by the new City Council at their next meeting.
On or about January 9, 2013 in a conference call between Suzanne Bryant, Mayor Owings, Michael Geller, and Henry Garcia, they agreed to ignore the remaining violations on Marcelo Co’s properties.
Page 4 of 6
Marcelo Co was due to appear in court on January 24, 2013, regarding his progress. Prior to that date in January 2013, Barry Foster came into my office to advise me that Marcelo had complied with all required terms of his probation with the exception of one item. He was moving materials from one property (included in the complaint) to another property not contained within our original filing. Therefore, Barry was requesting closure of his criminal case with building and he was directing code not to address the movement of materials unless we received a complaint regarding the items. The problem was that Mr. Co was violating the terms of his probation (do not violate any law). Photos were submitted to the DA outlining this activity In or about February 2013 Code Compliance staff received a citizen complaint from Marcelo Co’s next door neighbor regarding a forklift and business activity occurring at his primary residence on Atwood. I advised Barry Foster of the complaint and he stated to hold off on enforcement proceedings until he had a chance to discuss the case with Henry Garcia, City Manager. Barry Foster returned approximately two weeks later and stated that he talked to Mr. Co regarding the issue and was advised by Marcelo that he was just moving materials around the property not conducting a business. Barry Foster directed me to close the case without conducting an investigation.
On or about March 14, 2013 I contacted Barry Foster for a scheduled conference call. I was immediately placed on speaker phone with Tom DeSantis, HR Director, who was in the room for the call. I was immediately notified that myself and three other Division managers were being laid off effective May 30, 2013. I had deduced that two of the other three managers were Anne Schneider and Paul Early and immediately felt that these layoffs were in effect a termination due to our prosecution of Marcelo Co, among other things. I stated “do not think I don’t know what’s going on” and “I plan show up to every City Council meeting after May 30th to let the public know what you’re up to.” Tom asked me to calm down which I did and proceeded to educate me on COBRA and other pertinent benefit information. I asked Tom why he had not mentioned recall rights and he replied that’s because we intend on restructuring your division and will be effectively eliminating your position. Approximately an hour later, I noticed that I was not receiving email on my PDA. I contacted Tom directly and asked if there was a change in my employment status to which he replied “yes, Barry Foster has decided to place you on administrative leave through May 30th.” I asked Tom Why. He stated that it was within Barry’s right and he did not need a reason. He further stated that they had sent me a letter advising me of administrative leave.
On or about March 15, 2013 I received the layoff letter and placement of administrative leave letter.
Page 5 of 6
On or about March 18, 2013 I received a phone call from City Council member Stewart on my home phone, personal cell and City issued cell phone. He stated that he contacted me because he had just learned of my layoff through the Press Enterprise who had contacted him for comment on an article they were preparing. He stated that he immediately contacted the City Manager, Henry Garcia, and requested a meeting to discuss the issue. During the meeting, Mr. Garcia assured Council member Stewart that the layoff was purely for budgetary reasons and not related to the Co case. Council member Stewart then stated to me that he did not believe Mr. Garcia and that the whole thing was contrived, but there was nothing he could do to help me. He thanked for my efforts and stated that he always respected the work I did for the City and offered to provide me with a reference letter if needed. I thanked him for the kind words and that I appreciated the phone call.
It is my opinion, based upon my observations and experiences that certain Council members and certain Executive Managers have a history of protecting and granting special treatment to public officials, developers and/or acquaintances of certain public officials and developers.
Based upon these facts, it is clear that my position with the City is being eliminated, as well as the positions of others, for past enforcement actions taken against these preferred individuals and refusing to commit violations of law pursuant to Labor Code § 1102.5(b), and my refusal to commit violations of law pursuant to Labor Code § 1102.5(c). The reason of budgetary constraints as alleged by Executive Management is pre-textual.
Based upon these facts, it is clear that my position was eliminated because of my complaints of statutory violations by City officials.
Section 8- Damages Claimed:
As a direct and proximate cause of my termination, I have suffered lost earnings and benefits (including but not limited to CaIPERS), emotional distress, loss of reputation, and have incurred attorneys’ fees. All in an amount in excess of $1 0,000.00 and subject to the unlimited civil case jurisdiction of the Superior Court.
Dated: May 13th, 2013
Page 6 of 6