A veteran Los Angeles County Probation Department employee is suing the county, alleging he was demoted and denied promotions for speaking out against the spending of more than $17,000 in taxpayer money for a management leadership retreat at a Santa Monica luxury hotel in 2019.
Walter Le Vaughn Mann Sr.’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, and failure to investigate and prevent discrimination and retaliation. He seeks unspecified damages in the suit filed Thursday.
A Probation Department representative could not be immediately reached.
The department’s chief deputy, Sheila Mitchell, called Mann in April 2019 asking his help in obtaining a location for a leadership retreat, for herself and a handful of other county management staff, the suit states. Shortly after Mann began assisting, he learned that arrangements had already been made for Mitchell and other probation department employees to attend the retreat at Shutters on the Beach, an upscale Santa Monica hotel, the suit states.
Mann began investigating and learned the hotel was a county-approved vendor and he believed that the retreat at Shutters, which would later cost taxpayers over $17,000 for a one-day session, violated the county’s purchasing agreement and internal loss prevention policies, according to the suit.
Mann later reported his findings of a potential violation to his supervisor and administrative deputy, Robert Smythe, but the plaintiff believes no investigation was made concerning any alleged misuse of funds until after the retreat, the suit states.
Then-Chief Probation Officer, Terri McDonald subsequently contacted Mann and said he should have reported the matter directly to her, but Mann responded that he followed his chain of command and reported the issues to Smythe, his supervisor, according to the suit.
That same day, McDonald reassigned her executive assistant, to Mann’s department as acting bureau chief to the staff training office, meaning the plaintiff was now required to report to McDonald’s former driver, the suit states. McDonald retired in January 2020.
Mann subsequently faced “significant retaliation” for speaking out against the retreat’s cost, the suit states. He was told in December 2019 that he was being stripped of certain job functions concerning staff training and four months later he was moved out of his director’s position and office at the staff training office and moved to another assignment, the suit states.
Last August, Mann applied for the open position of bureau chief of the Probation Department and he received no response even though he believes he was the most qualified candidate, the suit states. Two months later, the county filled two vacant senior probation director positions, denying Mann a promotion to the vacant jobs even though once again he considered himself the best qualified person, the suit states.
Mann also was rejected for the bureau chief position in March after the incumbent, Patrick Lamaire, retired, according to the suit.
Mann also alleges a medical condition he has worsened and he had to take a brief medical leave last October because he was denied access to his physician-recommended ergonomic equipment.
“It was only after the filing of a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and giving notice of a government tort claim to the Board of Supervisors, did the county proceed with installing plaintiff’s ergonomic equipment” in December, the suit states.
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