‘Harassed’ West Covina City Hall employee asks for $3 million

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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
Section: News

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.”

  • WC Resident

    Just a few facts: Chung worked in Pomona with City Attorney Alvarez-Glasman before he was brought over by Touhey/Herfert to West Covina. He is a very good yes man and does whatever the two want him to do. He steers contracts to the contractors that so happen to coincidently show up on their campaign disclosure forms(460). By asking for 3 million it just shows that the team will do anything to try and discredit anyone that gets in their way.

  • Anonymouse

    Wow. It’s incredible the things that people could request through a lawsuit. This Chung character wants continuous employment ’til retirement age?! Is he insane? If I were obligated to employ this character for that long, I’d hire him to shine employees shoes or be a bathroom monitor. Unbelievable. Who hasn’t been aggravated by his boss?

  • Concerned Citizen

    Alot of people were present at our Council meetings where Councilmember Hernandez has verbally attacked Chris Chung. Councilmember Hernandez continues with his childish tantrums all the time, it is really bad for our city.

  • Concerned Citizen forgot to mention

    Councilmember Hernandez has left the dias and lunged and verbally attacked a member of the public on a couple of occasions. Councilman Hernandez has had some severe mood swings, not only in closed session, but in the publics view as well.

  • anonymous

    “verbally attacked” – what the hell does that mean?

    Did he speak poorly to the guy? So what…now the guys wants 3 million? A great example of what is wrong with the way our local government is run – heck, in the real world we just fire crappy employees.

  • fed up Resident

    Some comments are clearly made from mouths of people that are uneducated.

    Employees, have rights! There are laws in place that protect them. Verbal abuse in front of your co workers and causing physical stress is a part of those protections.

    To blame Glassman, Touhey, Herfert and Chung is amazing!!! Stop trying to protect Hernandez for his unacceptable behavior!!

    Besides, why would someone jeopardize their career? Obviously they felt very threatened to stand up for their rights! And that’s not an easy thing to do.

    Several times Hernandez group blames Touhey and he has had NOTHING to do with it.

    This blame game just has to STOP! Be responsible for your actions Hernandez!!!!!

  • to fed up Resident

    No one is saying that employees don’t have rights. But to demand $3 million and continuous employment until retirement age is ridiculous. He’s just trying to get rich quick. That’s not fair compensation for anything he may have suffered.

  • anonymous

    “verbal abuse”?? again, what does that mean? What was said to Mr. Chung?

    However, you are right in one regard – “some comments are clearly made from mouths of people that are uneducated”.

    Here is what the State Bar Association of California has to say about “employee rights”…

    There is no legal right to be treated “fairly” in the workplace. In California, the law permits employees to discipline or fire their employees at will.

    So while speaking poorly to an employee may not always be the best way to manage operations, it does not give rise to the outrageous 3 million being sought by Chung.

  • Anonymous

    RE: There is no legal right to be treated “fairly” in the workplace. In California, the law permits employees to discipline or fire their employees at will.

    Actually, all California employees have the right to be treated and compensated for injury or illness sustained on the job. The claim sounds like a workers comp claim. I don’t know if Chung deserves $3M, but he deserves something! Hernandez’s treatment of WC employees is despicable!

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous:

    Your statement is more than a little off. At-will employees can be fired for reasonable reasons…e.g. bad performance, the business can’t afford to keep the employee etc.

    Under state law, however, YOU CAN’T FIRE SOMEONE for unlawful reasons:

    e.g.
    because of their race;
    because of their sex;
    because of their ethnicity;
    because of their religion; or
    because of their sexual orientation

  • Anonymous

    Actually you’re off.

    My statement said nothing about being fired. My statement that Chung’s assertions is a WORKERS COMP claim. One that the City may very well have to pay because Hernandez has a poor history with employee relations.

  • Anonymous

    I went to a fundraiser for Hernandez a few years ago and he lunged at me in the parking lot. he lost his temper at me because he said I did not give him enough.

    I will not support this man ever again. he has serious issues.

  • The Commish

    I think that last anonymous poster is hilarious! Do you take your act on the road? If not, you should. Hit the road, and never come back.

  • http://mutuelle.compareo.net mutuelle

    You are right Commish the post from anonymous is indeed hilarious.The latter is trying to bluff or what?Very cheap comments on his behalf!I really don’t understand what the meaning behind his words.Can he/she gives an explanation?