A former girlfriend and executive assistant of Inglewood Mayor James Butts Jr., who filed a lawsuit against the city and Butts alleging she was wrongfully fired in 2019, won a round in court Wednesday when only one of three causes of action that the defense sought to have dismissed were tossed by a judge.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Burdge Jr. dismissed Melanie McDade-Dickens’ cause of action for sexual harassment against the city and Butts, but said she could move forward with her claims against the city for failure to investigate and prevent sexual harassment and retaliation.
Burdge heard arguments Tuesday, then took the case under submission before issuing a final ruling Wednesday afternoon.
Defense attorney Mira Hashmall argued that all three causes of action should have been dismissed because McDade-Dickens’ lawyers had failed to show the allegations should remain part of the case despite several amendments of the original complaint.
“They just make new sham allegations right and left,” Hashmall said.
McDade-Dickens brought her complaint on Jan. 25, and Hashmall, an attorney for Butts and the city, told the judge that the law at the time gave the plaintiff only one year from July 2019 — when she received a right-to-sue notice from the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing and was placed on administrative leave — to file suit.
Maryann Gallagher, a lawyer for McDade-Dickens, countered that her client had three years to bring the case because of a new law that went into effect in January 2020. The judge agreed, writing that an amendment to Government Code 12960 allowed McDade-Dickens to pursue her retaliation and failure to investigate and prevent sexual harassment causes of action.
“Accordingly, at least part of the second and third causes of action are not barred by her failure to timely sue following receipt of her right to sue letter,” Burdge concluded.
The judge previously denied the defense’s requests to dismiss her claims for harassment and discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress as well as a violation of the state Labor Code.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff’s allegations concern the “disturbing actions of a scorned lover, who also happens to be the mayor of a burgeoning metropolis … who uses his superior power and influence … to seduce a trusted city employee, Melanie McDade-Dickens, to become romantically involved with him.”
But after McDade-Dickens ended what was described as a consensual relationship, Butts, “acting every bit like a Black Donald Trump, targeting those who dare to rebuke him,” conspired with city Human Resources Director Jose Cortes and City Manager Artie Fields to ruin her career by retaliating against and ultimately firing the plaintiff from the job that she loved, the suit alleges.
McDade-Dickens met Butts in 2010 and volunteered to work on his mayoral campaign, the suit states. He initially asked her to serve as his office manager, but was so impressed by her knowledge and organizational skill that he promoted her to his inner circle of advisers as part of his strategy committee, the suit states.
After Butts was elected mayor in 2010, he invited McDade-Dickens to be his executive assistant.
“In the beginning Butts is nurturing, loving and supportive, both personally and professionally,” according to the suit.
However, the relationship eventually descended “into one of abuse, abuse of power and sexual harassment,” the suit alleges.
Hashmall previously said the lawsuit is “full of salacious fabrications, is a tactic designed to draw attention away from Ms. McDade’s wrongdoing by smearing others. It will not work.”
The city fired McDade-Dickens after allegations of fraud and criminal behavior came to its attention, according to Hashmall.