City fighting release of payout in Long case

first_img WhatsApp Twitter Facebook Landgraf prepares for state budget debate Pinterest Twitter By admin – January 18, 2018 The City of Odessa disclosed paying $23,300 to an outside law firm for work on the sexual harassment complaint involving City Attorney Larry Long, whose resignation is due to take effect at the end of next month.But the city is still fighting to withhold records showing whether the legal assistant who filed a federal sexual harassment complaint against the city attorney received taxpayer money as part of a settlement.The total costs of the sexual harassment case remain unclear. The legal assistant had filed a complaint this summer accusing Long of harassing her in ways such as touching her hair against her will and staring at her, an account that was corroborated by a human resources report.The city’s outside counsel, Shafer, Davis, O’Leary & Stoker attorney Cal Hendrick, appealed an open records request about the settlement to the state Attorney General’s office. Hendrick argued that releasing the records “would be a violation of federal law” because of a confidentiality agreement between the city and the legal assistant as part of the resolution to the complaint she filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.“The City is only following the terms and conditions set upon it by the US Government,” Hendrick said in an email. “It is in good faith because it is compelled to take this position as the result of the resolution. Failure to do so would be in breach of the resolution provisions created by and dictated by an agency of the US Government.”But any payment of public funds is clearly public information that the city should not be able to keep secret, open government experts say.“They are just basically blowing smoke here,” Joe Larsen, a Houston attorney and board member of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said adding any settlement payment by the city would be “super public” and should be disclosed promptly.“He doesn’t have the authority to enter into a contract that overrides state law,” Larsen said, referring to the city’s outside counsel. “The EEOC doesn’t either. In order to override state law, there has to be a federal law that is on the same subject and is inconsistent with state law. There is no such thing here.”Long announced his resignation on Nov. 28, telling reporters he wanted to work through his next birthday for better retirement benefits and because he has work he wanted to continue. Long has denied the allegations and repeatedly declined to discuss them.Long was never disciplined by the City Council, but after his resignation Mayor David Turner acknowledged dissent among council members who wanted the city attorney gone sooner. Long’s duties supervising the support staff were reassigned to an assistant city attorney.After Long’s resignation, the city estimated paying about another $10,800 toward his retirement benefits through the state. His current salary, after the City Council awarded him a 3 percent raise in November, is about $201,500.The legal assistant remained a city employee after filing the complaint and was moved from the City Hall office where Long worked.Before refusing to disclose the settlement information, the city had also fought to withhold the HR report.The July 24 HR report also pointed behavior by Long such as sitting too close to her and calling his employees pet names. Authors of the report, including HR Director Bonita Hall, who later resigned, also noted it was repeated behavior by Long from another sexual harassment case in 2007 that resulted in a month-long unpaid suspension.The OA obtained the report in November. On Jan. 2, the city finally released it — about two weeks after the AG’s office ordered it to do so.This week, the city released another record it was supposed to release at the same time: a one page memo to Hall from the Odessa City Council’s two-member personnel committee that dismissed the findings of the HR report.The two council members on that committee who reviewed the July 24 report were District 5 Councilman Filiberto Gonzales and District 3 Councilwoman Barbara Graff.The remaining three council members said they were not provided the HR report for months.“After carefully reviewing all the pertinent information presented to us for the current case, we adopt the initial finding of the Human Resources Director and find that no sexual harassment or misconduct occurred,” the personnel committee wrote in the memo to Hall.The memo goes on to state that the council members on the committee agreed “improvements should be made” to the operation of the city’s legal department “even though there was no fault found.”It’s unclear what “initial finding” Gonzales and Graff were referring to. And Hendrick said in an email that there were no other records related to the case, including any HR reports or written conversation between council members.Hendrick said “Ms. Graff had a telephone call with the HR Director, Ms. Hall” but that “that conversation was prior to the written report by Ms. Hall, so I can only assume that refers to the discussion Ms. Graff had with Ms. Hall, and I further assume all of that was included in the final report.”In that report, Hall warned that the city was “susceptible to a lawsuit.”“We are in an untenable position with this case. Long is an intelligent employee who has worked tirelessly for the City of Odessa” but “(a)nyone who has worked in the last twenty years understands that the behavior exhibited by Larry Long is unacceptable regardless of how ‘friendly’ you want to be with your subordinates.”The report continued: “Gone is the possible defense that the City had no idea Larry would behave in such a manner.” Facebook Home Local News Government City fighting release of payout in Long casecenter_img Larry Long, Odessa city attorney. Local NewsGovernment City fighting release of payout in Long case WhatsApp Smoked Bacon Wrapped French Vidalia OnionHawaiian Roll Ham SlidersVirgin Coco MojitoPowered By 10 Sec Mama’s Deviled Eggs NextStay Church leaders condemn mayor’s disparaging comments Landgraf staffer resigns following investigation Pinterest Previous articleOPD apprehends wanted New Mexico fugitiveNext articleOncor sending employees to aid Puerto Rico admin RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHORlast_img read more