One year after the Community Development Commission Director Chris Chung filed a harassment claim against Councilman Roger Hernandez, Chung is now asking for $3 million from the city, according to a letter sent by his attorney dated Sept. 23.
“This amount is reasonable in light of the Tennie Pierce case where a firefighter was awarded over $2 million for eating dog food and retaliated against for complaining about the incident,” according to Chung’s attorney, Victor Jacobovitz.
Chung is also asking for agreement to protect him from future retaliation and termination by ensuring continuous employment through the retirement age of 60, which will also include 4 percent annual cost of living adjustments.
Chung alleges that he was subject to a hostile work environment as of March 20, 2006, when Hernandez allegedly berated and belittled him, as well as used profanity and disparaging remarks. Here is the story that we initially reported when the claim was filed:
Claim of harassment targets councilman
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA) – Friday, September 28, 2007
Author/Byline: Alison Hewitt , Staff Writer
WEST COVINA – A city staff member filed a claim against the city that accuses a councilman of “continuous retaliatory and harassing acts,” according to a document obtained Friday.
Community Development Director Christopher Chung filed the claim Wednesday naming Councilman Roger Hernandez, according to the documents.
On Friday, Hernandez denied the allegations.
A city-commissioned investigation reported in December that Hernandez verbally attacked several city employees, and Chung was among those identified after the report came out. Chung accused Hernandez of retaliating against him for participating in the investigation.
“It’s not something that I want to get public, and it’s been a hard decision to make,” Chung said. “I was hoping that it would stop, and I don’t see it stopping. It’s just been very difficult.”
Hernandez denied taking any action against Chung, just as he had originally denied harassing any employees.
“I haven’t spoken to Mr. Chung in more than a year, probably,” Hernandez said. “He works very closely with the city attorney and any attempts they make to attack my character is strategically timed with the current election cycle we’re going through.”
Hernandez, who is frequently a lone opposition vote on the council and has had disagreements with the city manager and city attorney, is one of two council members running for re-election in November.
Chung’s claim accuses Hernandez of damaging Chung’s health and reputation, causing physical and mental stress, “stress-induced diabetes” and damage to his future employment prospects.
In the claim, Chung accuses Hernandez of naming him as one of the city employees complaining of harassment when his name was supposed to remain confidential, and of making “statements which (implied) that I and the city attorney were doing something unethical.”
The amount Chung is seeking was marked “unknown/unlimited.”
Hernandez called the claim “just another repeated attempt” to destroy his reputation. Hernandez was investigated by the District Attorney’s Office Public Integrity Division regarding complaints that he improperly accepted a steep discount on a car and that he misused employee time to create a video that was used by residents at a council meeting. He was not prosecuted in either case.
Councilman Michael Touhey said he was deeply concerned about Chung’s claim.
“We’ve warned Councilman Hernandez that his temper tantrums could cost us money,” Touhey said. “That’s what we were concerned with all along. Some (employees) have been badgered at meetings, and that’s where we’ve warned (him) that they have rights.”