Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Attempted Robbery in Baker City?

Ex City Manager Steve Brocato Files lawsuit Against Our City, Four City Councilors, and Baker City Resident Gary Dielman.

Below is a copy of the text from a press release issued yesterday by Steve Brocato's most recent attorney's, Crispin Employment Lawyers.




Craig A. Crispin, Attorney at Law
1834 SW 58th Avenue, Suite 200
Portland, Oregon 97221
(503) 293-5759
(503) 756-1701 (Cell)

Portland, Oregon (May 24, 2010): Former Baker City Manager, Stephen Brocato, today filed suit in US District Court, naming Baker City, Mayor Dennis Dorrah, City Councilors Beverly Calder, Aletha Bonebrake, and Clair Button, and Baker City resident Gary Dielman as defendants. Although the complaint filed today does not specify the amount of damages claimed, it claims lost wages, lost benefits of employment, and other economic losses, as well as future losses and lost earning capacity. Brocato seeks an award of damages for noneconomic damages and an assessment of punitive damages against the individual defendants.

Brocato was Baker City Manager from February 2007 until his termination by the City Council on June 9, 2009. His firing drew strong criticism and led to a failed recall election against Mayor Dorrah and Council member Calder in November 2009.

In his complaint, filed by Portland employment lawyers Craig Crispin and Shelley Russell, Brocato claims he was terminated as a result of Council retaliation for his work on proposed revisions to the City Property Maintenance Ordinance. Brocato’s lawsuit describes a survey of potentially affected property, which showed that defendants Dorrah and Calder likely had actual conflicts of interest in that each owned properties that showed multiple violations of the proposed ordinance. He claims that after he contacted the Oregon Government Ethics Commission disclosing the potential conflicts of interest by those members of the City Council, the Council retaliated against him by wrongfully terminating his employment as City Manager.

Brocato alleges that Mayor Dorrah and Councilors Calder, Button, and Bonebrake violated Oregon’s Open Meeting law by adiscussing (sic) in private and collaborating on the decision to terminate him. Brocato’s complaint notes that he was terminated during a June 9, 2009 City Council meeting where Mayor Dorrah allowed no debate or discussion before the vote.

Alleging a federal civil rights claim, as well as defamation, Brocato claims all the defendants made false and defamatory statements about him, causing a violation of his Constitutional Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from false charges made under color of law which involved or implied personal and professional dishonesty, immorality or malfeasance in office.

Brocato said he made every attempt to resolve his dispute with the City and City Council through two Portland employment lawyers, “but the City made no effort to prevent his lawsuit.” “If they wouldn’t negotiate a fair resolution, I had no other choice but to take the matter to court,” Brocato added.

Portland employment lawyer, Craig Crispin, who represents Brocato in his lawsuit, said he expects the case to take a year and a half to complete, and that both sides will incur a great deal of expense in the court proceedings and at a jury trial. Crispin, who maintains a Portland office but handles employment cases against public and private entities statewide, said he expects to ask a jury to award Brocato in excess of $1 million. “How much in excess of $1 million, we don’t know at this time. A lot depends on the calculations of our expert economist and how egregious the behind-the-scenes conduct of the individual defendants turns out to be.”

The case is expected to be assigned to the Pendleton division of the federal Oregon District Court for trial.

My Comments:

In my opinion, it goes without saying that Mr. Brocato had lost the confidence of most on the City Council and a majority of city residents long before he tried to manipulate, threaten, pressure, and and paint them into a corner with his intimidating "survey of potentially affected property" related to the heavy handed, "war on the poor"(and other innocent bystanders) style property maintenance ordinance, that he, some realtors, and the police department were promoting.

While many would like to think Brocato is a friend of the community, it is clear, in my opinion, that he is no friend. It is my understanding that not only did he decline to resign and accept a separation payment, as is the practice in the city manager trade, but he, and his ardent supporters, including Milo Pope, put us through an expensive and divisive recall campaign, the results of which showed overwhelming support for two Councilors who voted to fire him. Now we are treated to the threat of a potentially multi-million dollar lawsuit, at a time when we are trying to figure out how to deal with budget problems that are, at least in part, of his making.

The simple fact is that the Charter allows the Council to fire the City Manager for any reason. Mr. Brocato should know that.

Attempted Robbery

In my humble :-) opinion, he is putting a gun to the head of the city in an attempt to extort what ever he can get, either from a successful lawsuit, or, much more likely, from a settlement derived from the multi-million dollar threat.

Perhaps if Mr. Brocato hadn't fired our full time City Attorney and replaced him with a part-time attorney, who seemed to serve more as Mr. Brocato's personal attorney than one serving the city, none of this would have happened. As a good friend constantly tells me, "It is time to bring the law back to Baker City." We need a full-time City Attorney.

Other Related Issues:

And what about Gary Dielman? Regardless of whether you always agree with him or not (I don't always agree with Gary, nor he with me, for example) Mr. Dielman has served this city well as a dedicated citizen who has the courage to challenge city leaders and our public "servants" when he feels they are on the wrong track or violating the law. That is what good citizens do. What kind of message does it send to others willing to criticize what they perceive to be bad behavior on the part of our city government? Are you prepared to defend yourself from frivolous lawsuits brought by wealthy individuals just because you tried to do your duty as a citizen? The message is that if you challenge powerful people they will attempt to crush you by depleting what resources you may have to defend yourself from a lawsuit. This kind of unwarranted behavior could ruin many well intentioned citizens. The result, intended or not, will be to put a chill on democratic participation.

And what about Milo Pope's divisive attempt to promote the second coming of Mr. Brocato? In my opinion, he seems compelled by some sort of demented arrogance and lack of community oriented self control to keep the ill-considered idea alive that Mr. Brocato is somehow a positive force in our community. One need only make a cursory review of the turmoil created by Mr. Brocato's tenure, now continued by Mr. Pope and a few others, to see how misguided that is. Thankfully, The Herald, which early on helped to stall the Pope recall effort by Dick Haynes, has seen the light and will continue to call out Mr. Pope on his divisive behavior, as they did in a recent editorial over his dragging Mr. Brocato into a budget "training session." In any event, absent a recall, we are stuck with Mr. Pope's seemingly erratic and divisive behavior until 2012!

We can only hope that people will come together to fight what really amounts to an unwarranted and continuing assault on our community.

See Also:

Brocato Fired! Pope to Sue. . . . Divisions Likely to Deepen. (Updated)

More on Baker City Recall (part 1)

Posts on Brocato Firing