After repeatedly refusing to settle public works director Manuel Ojeda’s “hostile work environment” lawsuit, the city council on Tuesday night agreed to pay $150,000 to settle the case.
Ojeda alleged former public works director Christopher Coke subjected him to “ridicules” and “derogatory comments” for his association with mayor Jose “Joey” Torres. Torres was voted out in the 2010 election and Jeffery Jones came into office.
Jones appointed Coke to the head of the department. Ojeda was reduced to assistant director, according to his complaint. He states in the lawsuit Coke doubled his workload and even threatened to reduce his salary by as much as $40,000.
Ojeda was also forced to inquire about his paycheck rather than receive it as other employees in the department did, he alleged in the lawsuit filed in November 2013. Since the lawsuit’s filing, the city spent more than $62,000 in legal expenses as of this July, according to government records.
“This was a very difficult case. The facts of the case warrant us to settle,” said council president William McKoy on Tuesday night.
The council rejected the settlement several times. Council members balked at settling the case for $215,000. Then again opted against settling for $175,000. Council members voted to approve the $150,000 settlement at a special meeting on Tuesday night.
$125,000 is being paid by the city and $25,000 is being paid out by the city’s excess carrier insurance provider ACE American Insurance Co., according to the resolution approving the settlement.
Councilman Kenneth Morris abstained from voting on the settlement while Shahin Khalique was not present during the vote.
Ojeda was re-appointed as public works director by Torres in 2014.
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