A La Puente city councilwoman is suing the San Gabriel Valley community, alleging its mayor did nothing when she complained of sexual harassment by the city manager and instead joined the then-city attorney in interfering with her ability to perform her duties as a public official.
Councilwoman Violeta Lewis’ Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit also names as defendants Mayor Charlie Klinakis and City Manager Robert Lindsey. She alleges discrimination and harassment based on gender and race, assault, aiding and abetting and failure to investigate, prevent and correct state Fair Housing and Employment violations.
The 68-year-old Klinakis said current City Attorney Rick R. Olivarez advised him not to comment on personnel matters involving the city, but added, “I am confident that over time the real truth will come out. In the meantime I will continue to stay focused on moving the city forward.”
Lewis, first elected in April 2012, seeks compensatory damages from all defendants as well as punitive damages from Klinakis and Lindsey in the suit brought Wednesday.
“The city of La Puente, as a government employer using taxpayer funds, is expected and legally required to set the example for compliance with sexual harassment and discrimination laws for the private (sector),” the suit states.
“Unfortunately, … Klinakis, who yields significant power and influence in the city of La Puente, does not embrace or otherwise believe in the policies behind the #MeToo movement.”
Klinakis has instead “continued business as usual by employing, protecting and favoring sexual harassers and blaming and punishing the sexual harassment victim,” the suit states.
“Klinakis has engaged in a pattern of hiring and employing men who have been terminated from other jobs for sexual harassing women at the workplace.”
The city hired Lindsey as a transition city manager in October 2018, when Lewis was serving as mayor, the suit states. His duties included assisting the plaintiff in developing policies, goals and objectives for the city and to keep Lewis informed about important community issues, the suit states.
Several months after being hired, Lindsey began sexually harassing Lewis and “aggressively pursued a sexual relationship” with her, the suit states. He also made sexually oriented comments and stared at Lewis in an offensive, sexual manner, according to the suit.
Lindsey told Lewis that he loved her and said, “If we ran the world, it would be perfect,” the suit states.
When Lewis complained to Lewis about his alleged misconduct during a meeting at her home with her husband present, the city manager, “flew into a fury, became enraged and pointed his finger at plaintiff’s face and began yelling and screaming at her as if to say, `How dare she,”’ according to the suit.
After Lewis came forward and complained, the city “immediately began a coverup, starting with a sham investigation designed to sweep the matter under the rug and to create the illusion of a proper investigation, which it was not,” the suit states.
Then-City Attorney Jaime Casso and Klinakis called Lewis and urged her not to file a sexual harassment or retaliation complaint against Lindsey, the suit states.
Klinakis believed that Lewis should tolerate or expect such behavior from Lindsey and that the plaintiff “had essentially asked for it” because Lewis recommended him for hiring by the city, the suit states.
Lewis eventually filed a complaint against Lindsey and when an investigation into her allegations was completed last September, the only recommendation Casso made to Lewis was, “Talk to Charlie,” the suit states.
Klinakis and Casso, who is not a defendant in the suit, have retaliated against Lewis for filing the complaint by subjecting her to a hostile work environment in order to prevent her from fulfilling her job responsibilities as mayor pro tem and to persuade her to resign or not run for reelection, the suit alleges.
The city has also stripped Lewis of job responsibilities, including disbanding the ad hoc communications committee she led for several years, the suit states.
The city and Klinakis “have chosen to fully embrace and protect … Lindsey, as they have with other sexual harassers,” the suit alleges.