Thursday, May 15, 2014

City Settles Sexual Harrassment Case Involving ex-Mayor

The Times Record News reported:

Almost a year after San Angelo ex-Mayor Joseph “J.W.” Lown moved to Mexico with his male lover, attorneys quietly settled a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit brought against him and the city of San Angelo by a male city employee.

The employee claimed he lost his job after rejecting the mayor’s sexual advances and complaining about a hostile work environment at the city airport.
 The city claimed otherwise.

(Assistant City Manager Elizabeth) Grindstaff said she fired Mercado because of documented performance issues and disagreed with his description of Lown as having a propensity toward sexual harassment.

“How would I know that? Why would I think that?” she said. “I have no knowledge of that nor do I believe that to be a known behavior of then-mayor Lown.”

I guess the distinction is being gay vs. sexually harassing city employees.  Most of San Angelo knew he was gay.  This isn't as bad as her public ignorance on the city's failure to pursue reclaimed water under her tenure in city government. 

Lown said Mercado’s accusations are hurtful, and he never paid a penny to settle.  “I wish him the best in his career and life. We had a friendship,” Lown said.
The City paid many pennies to settle.  Did any funds come from their Directors and Officers coverage?

The city acknowledges that airport maintenance supervisor Noel Delgado left a male swimsuit calendar in Mercado’s chair at work in late 2007. In addition to his lawsuit, Mercado filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In its response to that complaint, the city said Mercado considered the calendar incident to be sexual harassment.

Delgado and Elguezabal were disciplined over the incident, and a female employee was transferred to another department, according to the lawsuit.
Grindstaff said she counseled employees over the calendar issue expeditiously, and Mercado’s firing in June 2008 had nothing to do with Lown, retaliation for Mercado filing a grievance with the city or anything except Mercado’s work performance.
  The City settled the case for $20,000.

Mercado first filed the lawsuit in the Dallas Division of federal court, and attorneys for the city embarked on a battle, which they eventually won, to transfer the case to the San Angelo Division.

Attorneys on both sides settled the lawsuit in U.S. Northern District Court in spring 2010. Both it and the appeals case were dismissed as a result of the settlement.  Wilson said the settlement is on file in Northern District Court.  Attempts to obtain it have been unsuccessful.
The case regarding jurisdiction is available, as is a webpage on the case from a Houston law firm.

The trial got moved from Dallas to San Angelo in U.S. Courts.  Will the story make it home from Wichita Falls within Scripps Howard?

Update 5-19-14:  The Standard Times ran most of the story on this day just before midnight.

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