Former City Employee Received $500k
Carson Accountability and Transparency (CAT) has obtained details of more than 20 separate legal settlements made with current and former City of Carson employees stemming from suits and grievances brought against the City.
The City has paid out nearly $2 million in settlement, severance and legal costs dating back to 2010, with hundreds of thousands more in paid leave and back pay.
The average settlement cost the City more than $63,000. But the largest payment from these employee settlements stemmed from a 2016 discrimination case that totaled $499,000 to the plaintiff, a former City employee.
Other settled issues ranged from several thousand dollars to several hundred thousand dollars in costs to the City. On average, the City has spent $133,000 annually for the last decade paying out settlements to former employees that have sued the City for various reasons.
CAT originally requested details of these settlements in August 2019 as part of an ongoing effort to understand the impact of legal costs to the City in relation to a decade of budget struggles. In 2019, CAT also requested a recap of all funds paid to the City Attorney’s law firm, Aleshire & Wynder, for the past several years. Records revealed those costs to be in excess of $2 million per year.
California Public Records laws require a response within 10 working days, but the City ultimately took nearly 90 days to disclose the records, filing for extensions on Sept. 12, Sept. 25, Oct. 17, Oct. 30 and finally on Nov. 14.
Virtually all local governments see legal actions brought against them, including by employees. While formal statistics from other cities are not available, the number of cases settled by Carson is cause for concern. A 2017 Voice of OC report on the City of Westminster, an Orange County city of similar size to Carson, found six cases spanning 2011 to 2017, roughly one a year. Carson has more than double that rate.
The reasons for Carson’s settlements vary. Settlement agreements describe alleged discrimination to harassment retaliation, being required to work outside of job classification and other issues.
CAT has published a summary of the settlements at carsoncat.org/employeesettlements with names redacted to preserve privacy. The full agreements are available by contacting the Carson City Clerk and asking for details of any and all settled legal actions made between the City and any current or former City employees since Jan. 1, 2010.
Some cities have considered ordinances mandating that the city publicly disclose all settlements and judgments provide more accountability to the public. Of course, the settlements are public information — if requested. CAT believes that formal public records requests should not be necessary to understand what these actions are costing the City, and for what reasons.