CLAIM AGAINST THE CITY OF MORENO VALLEY
CLAIMANT- PAUL EARLY
The following narrative contains information responsive to Sections 3; 4, 5, 9, and 10:
I started my employment with the City on March 5, 2007, and I had a written contract for my position as a Deputy City Attorney III. That contract was amended on June 2, 2009, and has remained in full force and effect since that time.
Starting in or about February 2009, the City started having a number of continuous code enforcement problems with one of its residents named Marcelo Co. These problems resulted in a series of criminal complaints being filed against him. During these numerous filings, as a Deputy City Attorney, I coordinated with a number of other departments within the City as well as prosecuting the violations.
In early 2010, Mr. Co filed papers to run for City Council for the City of Moreno Valley. At the time Mr. Co filed these papers, prosecution of the code enforcement criminal filings were still pending.
Subsequently Mr. Co was elected to the City Council in the November election of2011. At that time, the prosecution of the pending code enforcement criminal filings were referred to the District Attorney’s Office, and I was the City liaison with Deputy District Attorney Lauren Dossey. Ultimately a plea bargain was struck between the District Attorney’s Office and Mr. Co, and Mr. Co was placed on probation. It should be noted that Mr. Co had been represented in regard to these code enforcement prosecutions by an attorney named Michael Geller. Mr. Geller was the law partner of Richard Stewart, the then Mayor of the City of Moreno Va1ley.
However, the continuing code enforcement issues persisted with Mr. Co, and it then came to the attention of the City that Mr. Co was threatening field personnel with their jobs. This was obviously an abuse of Mr. Co’s position as a City Council member. In addition, Mr. Co was not complying with the terms and conditions of his probation.
For instance, Mr. Co built a wall in front of his private residence on the City right-of-way. Instead of taking enforcement action against Mr. Co, Barry Foster, Director of Community & Economic Development, attempted to contrive a way for Mr. Co to keep
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his wall. This was an obvious sign of preferential treatment based on the fact that Mr. Co was a City Council member.
Mr. Foster came to me to get the wall adopted. The wall was ultimately adopted conditioned on Mr. Co submitted proof of insurance. However, the insurance submitted by Mr. Co to me did not meet the standard required by the City. Subsequently a battle ensued with me being the brunt of Mr. Co’s attacks.
Also following his election, Mr. Co and Mr. Molina started attempting to make substantial changes to the City’s Code Enforcement Department.
Then in November 2012, Mr. Thomas Owings, a former Planning Commissioner was elected to the City Council. Mr. Owings was subsequently nominated as Mayor, and Mr. Co nominated as Mayor Pro-Tern.
In December 2012 Mr. Owings emerged from a closed council session and got Ms. Bryant. Robert Hansen was removed as the City Attorney and placed on administrative leave, and Ms. Bryant was appointed as Acting City Attorney. I believe Mr. Hansen’s removal was based on his voicing concerns about Iddo Benzeevi’s Skechers development, and that those concerns were in direct opposition to those of several elected public officials within the City of Moreno Valley.
With Mr. Hansen’s removal, the City Attorney’s Office was left with only two attorneys, myself and Suzanne Bryant. Ms. Bryant had been advisor to the Planning Commission.
In or about October 2012, I was informed that the second story of City Hall was to be remodeled. In early January 2013 Ms. Bryant and I went to inspect the new office space for the City Attorney’s Office in the annex building.
In or about January 2013, I learned that my office will not be in the annex building, but rather I will be moved into a cubicle downstairs in the main building. I was informed that only one other Division Manager (Dante Hall), besides myself, was not being moved into an office. I started to grow concerned that I was going to be targeted, just like Mr. Hansen.
Additionally the code enforcement violations by Mr. Co continued. A follow-up inspection on Mr. Co’s property resulted in the District Attorney’s Office filing a probation violation against Mr. Co. Mr. Co had business equipment stored on his residential property. When being re-inspected, Mr. Co moved the business equipment to an adjacent lot which his mother occupied.
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In late January 2013, word came down to Code Enforcement and the Building Department from Barry Foster, not to add this latest violation to the probation violations. Mr. Foster stated that the City would only deal with it if there is a complaint.
On or about January 9, 2013, Anne Schneider from Code Enforcement did a drive-by inspection of Mr. Co’s property. Mr. Co started yelling at her. Ms. Schneider then emailed me copies of her report and photographs and advised that she was also forwarding to the District Attorney’ Office (although unbeknownst to me, Ms. Schneider did not actual forward the materials to the District Attorney’s Office). It should be noted that at this time I was actually on vacation.
Also on or about January 9, 2013, Ms. Bryant also sent me a text message advising me pot to communicate with anyone about Mr. Co’s properties. I telephoned Ms. Bryant and she advised that she had a meeting with the City Manager, Mayor Owings and Barry Foster (Michael Geller and Deputy D.A. Dorsey appeared telephonically), and the business equipment on the adjacent lot to Mr. Co was not going to be a probation violation.
On January 23, 2013, when T returned from vacation, Ms. Schneider called me and asked if I still had the photograph of Mr. Co property she had sent memo and asked that I forward the photographs to the District Attorney. Within one hour, I saw Mayor Owing huffing down the hall towards Ms. Bryant’s office. T was then ordered into a meeting by Mayor Owings and Ms. Bryant wherein Mayor Owings proceeded to chastise, threaten and intimidate me for 45 minutes about why the photographs of Mr. Co’s property were sent to the District Attorney’s Office, and my cooperation with the District Attorney’s Office in regard to Mr. Co. Ms. Bryant sat quietly allowing Mayor Owings to chair the meeting.
During the meeting I advised Mayor Owings that I was concerned about the legal ethics issues of discussing a criminal investigation, and Mayor Owing appeared visibly upset. Mayor Owings asked me why I sent the photographs, to which I responded that Ms. Schneider had asked me to do so. Mayor Owings then insisted that I call Ms. Schneider to come up to the meeting, which I did (it should be noted that Mayor Owning insisted he hear the conversation between myself and Ms. Schneider. Ms. Schneider then came into the meeting and advised Mayor Owings that the District Attorney’s Office had requested the photographs.
During the meeting Mayor Owings received a telephone call from Attorney Michael Geller on his cellular telephone. During the telephone conversation Mayor Owings stated to Geller, “I’m getting to the bottom of this.” I ultimately left the meeting; however Mayor Owings and Ms. Bryant continued to meet for at least another 30 minutes after I
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Following the meeting, J went back to my office and typed up a memorandum memorizing the events in the meeting, and gave the memorandum to Ms. Bryant the next day along with another memorandum regarding furlough monies which had been withheld from my paycheck in violation of my contract with the City. Ms. Bryant subsequently advised me that she could no longer talk to me without the Human Resource Director, Tom DeSantis, being present.
On or about January 30, 20l3, I was advised by Ms. Bryant and Mr. Santos that an investigation was pending and being conducted by Attorney Bradley Newfeld.
I was subsequently interviewed by Mr. Newfeld in early February 2013, and J provided Mr. Newfeld with a list of Penal Code and Government Code sections that I believe were violated by City officials. It should be noted that these code sections were also included in my memorandum to Ms. Bryant.
On March 6, 2013 there was a Council study session on Code Enforcement Remedies. Both myself and Mr. Brady were told not to attend the meeting, despite the fact that this was our areas of expertise. Mayor Owings made comments that I was a full-time prosecutor and that he sees me all the time in court, standing around. Both of these statements by Mayor Owings were inaccurate and I believe intended to besmirch my professional reputation, but also intended to harass me based on my previous prosecutions against Councilman Co.
On or about March 6, 2013, Ms. Bryant was out of town, and I was asked to sit in as counsel for a special meeting for interviews for Planning Commission seats. Mayor Owings continued to make harassing comments toward me in front of other Council members and Planning Commission candidates.
On or about March 12, 2013 I was asked to complete a Request For Proposals Packet for attorney services. I had no idea at the time that I was actually being asked to write the RFP for my replacement.
On March 14, 2013, I was advised that he was being laid off due to budget cuts. Apparently four City employees were being affected by the layoff:
1. Paul Early, Esq.;
2. Anne Schneider;
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3. Albert Brady; and
4. Dante Hall.
Of the four employees affected, three (myself, Schneider, and Brady) were all involved in the code enforcement actions against Mr. Co. As for Dante Hall, his position had already been slated for elimination because of the elimination of funding for the Redevelopment Department, and would have been eliminated without the alleged budget cuts.
Further, I have complained about conduct of elected officials involving Brown Act violations, and I believe that the motivation of certain public officials to limit the power of Code Enforcement, the Building Department, and the City Attorney’s office, is part of a large scheme tied to certain developers in the City, and others associated with them.
It is my opinion, based upon my observations that the City of Moreno Valley has a history of protecting public officials.
Based upon these facts, it is clear that my position was eliminated because of my complaints of statutory violations by City officials pursuant to Labor Code § 1102.5(b), and my refusal to commit violations of law pursuant to Labor Code §1102.5(c), as well as my complaints about wage and hour violations and the breach of my written contract.
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.
Additionally, due to the breach of my written contract wherein I was subjected to furlough days from July 10, 2009 through my termination. This amounts to approximately $54,183.52 plus accruing interest.
Dated: May 13, 2013
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