Employee Invokes Deputy Scandal in Suit Against City of WeHo

A city employee who was disciplined for misusing city parking passes and at one point fired is suing the City of West Hollywood, alleging that senior city staffers have abused him because he testified on behalf of former City Council deputy Ian Owensin his lawsuit against the city.

In his 46-page lawsuit, filed in December in L.A. Superior Court, Brendan Rome makes a long list of other allegations. In addition to firing him because he testified in the Owens lawsuit, he alleges the city has done everything from discriminating against him because he is HIV positive to telling people that he is a “thief” to assigning him to a job at a city “maintenance yard” where he was exposed to asbestos.

Brendan Rome (Facebook)

Rome began working with the City of West Hollywood on a part-time basis in 2001 and became full time in 2002, working in the Community Development Department. He was fired in May 2015. A member of the city’s employee union, he appealed the firing, and an arbitrator decided in his favor in August of last year. Rome was re-instated in another position in the city’s Public Works Department, which he alleges is evidence that the city was trying to retaliate against him. Rome complained that that position was in a maintenance yard where he worked in a building that exposed him to asbestos, which he said was particularly dangerous given his HIV status. The site to which he referred is a building at 7317 Romaine St. near Poinsettia Park and houses city building and maintenance workers and its film studio.

City Attorney Mike Jenkins disputed Rome’s allegations of suffering. Jenkins noted that after the arbitrator’s decision the city reinstated Rome at his same salary and paid him back pay and benefits for the time he was off the city payroll.

“Mr. Rome has suffered no damages,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said that when Rome raised the issue of asbestos at his workplace the City of West Hollywood engaged a professional asbestos consultant who concluded that there was no evidence of harmful asbestos. Nevertheless, Jenkins said, the city offered to move Rome back to City Hall, where he currently works in the Community Development Department

“The city would not put its employees at risk by putting them in a building with asbestos problems,” Jenkins said.

Rome is asking that the court order the city to pay his legal fees and pay an unstated amount for damages.

Rome’s allegation that he was fired for testifying on behalf of Owens has elevated what would be viewed as an un-newsworthy lawsuit into another public debate about the lawsuits filed by Michelle Rex in 2016 and her fellow council deputy, Ian Owens, in 2015. Owens sued the city and his boss, City Councilmember John Duran, alleging sexual harassment by Duran and that the city wasn’t willing to look into his allegations that council deputy Fran Solomon was campaigning from City Hall on behalf of her boss, Councilmember John Heilman. Rex, a friend of Owens who had a fraught relationship with Solomon, sued the city over losing her job with the dissolution of the deputy system.

The Owens suit resulted in a decision by the council to eliminate the deputy system, which had long been controversial given that deputies such as Rex, who worked for Councilmember John D’Amico, had managed his election campaign and that deputies often inappropriately interfered with the work of City Hall employees. The city settled the Owens lawsuit with a payment of $500,000, which was paid by its insurer. Duran denied allegations that he had sexually harassed Owens but did admit to have met him on Grindr, the gay hookup app, and have sex with him before hiring him. The Rex lawsuit is ongoing.

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Steve Martin
Steve Martin
4 years ago

Seems like a very odd distinction; the Ian Owens settlement was paid by insurance, the $240,000 in the City’s defense fees came from the General Fund.

Still half a million is half a million. I suppose we should be grateful it was covered by insurance; but that does not mitigate the fact the scandal was a monumental lapse in commons sense and good judgment. Is the deed somehow less unethical just because it was covered by insurance ?

WeHoMikey
WeHoMikey
4 years ago

Nir, you don’t even live in the States any longer. WTF do you care??

Chris Sanger
Chris Sanger
4 years ago

Zir – the hundreds of residents like me who have dealt with Council members who have treated them with respect and when needed valuable aid for no reason other than they are doing their duty contradicts your assertion that they “can do and treat people the way they want.” That’s nonsense. The situation in PS has zero to do with WeHo. The none of WeHo’s current government people to anyone’s knowledge has ever been known to work as consultants paid by dummy corporations while their employers developments were under consideration (part of the charge in that case, as well as… Read more »

Chris Sanger
Chris Sanger
4 years ago

Nir – the city had some minor expenses from the law suit. The payment came from an insurance fund they buy into across the county. Your comment that the city has spent (I think you mean paid) $1 million for lawsuits is a flat out falsehood. The insurance company, not the city, paid it. Why are you doubling down on your falsehood? Amanda – you have no basis for your statement, certainly based on what we know from this lawsuit, which for all we know may be frivolous. This is why most WeHo residents ignore the anti-council types for whom… Read more »

Nir Zilberman
Nir Zilberman
4 years ago
Reply to  Chris Sanger

Chris, READ MY LIPS! Just the embarrassment alone is so bad for our city. who do we trust here? Chris, once again. you are making it seems like those lawsuits are not a big deal. YES, The are. it’s wrong. Take a walk inside our city hall from our first floor to the third floor, so many of our city employees can not wait to get out of there, but they must keep they job because they need they money, or they work for our city for so many years, they are just waiting to get they full retirement benefits.… Read more »

Nir Zilberman
Nir Zilberman
4 years ago

Chris Sanger, Nir is NOT wrong read every media including this one, of curse we have insurance, we got to pay the deductible & the more claims, our insurance go up. not even mention the embarrassment, the time we spent ( time is money) in and out of court but the fact that Ian, got $500.000 it the fact, the lawyer fees are the facts. so yes, Chris, please goggle the name of the council man and it will be right there the lawsuit and the amount. please, stop making our city look like we are all “angeles” our leadership… Read more »

AMANDA GOODWIN
AMANDA GOODWIN
4 years ago

“The fish stinks from the head.” Time for a new City Manager and leadership, and City Council members who will make the necessary decision, on behalf of the residents and city employees. West Hollywood has absorbed enough humiliation and money from this ongoing, self inflicted debacle.

Chris Sanger
Chris Sanger
4 years ago

Nir is wrong. The insurance company, not the city, has paid the money. Please stop making up alternative facts. People need to know the truth, not lies.
As for this lawsuit, anyone can sue. If he was fired for cause, HR likely has their facts in order, particularly after the recent legal work. This could be opportunistic. Let’s see what happens.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
4 years ago

I guess misusing a City parking pass is worse than misusing a City employee…

Nir Zilberman
Nir Zilberman
4 years ago

No surprise, it’s one of many. and few are still coming. so sad, WEHO. I belive this man 100%. If we stop our corruption in our city hall, we may be able to support those in needs, instead spending our money on law suit. we already spent in less then 2 years over $1.000.000 on law suits but the one the top them all is the $750.000 SEX scandal. so just remember before you vote, who are those people, based on what’s happening in our management of our city and our “leaders” i would say, yes now it’s the time… Read more »

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