Former Oxnard city manager's case against city dismissed
By Chris O'Neal 11/07/2013
A lawsuit filed by former Oxnard City Manager Ed Sotelo against the city of Oxnard for harassment and retaliation was dismissed by a federal judge on Oct. 24, but the order allows Sotelo to amend the complaint and resubmit by Nov. 12. Though the suit didn’t mention a dollar amount, Sotelo had sought $1 million in damages in a prior proceeding.
The city argued that aspects of the lawsuit do not apply to Oxnard, suggesting rather that some of Sotelo’s complaints would be best settled through the workers’ compensation system while other claims lacked factual information to be considered.
Once Oxnard’s highest-paid city employee, Sotelo’s term as city manager, before he was placed on paid leave, came with sometimes public disputes with the City Council and reprimands for a $10,000 personal loan from city coffers and for authorizing $300 retirement stipends for top managers. After spending 13 months on paid leave, Sotelo’s final annual base salary was $282,982, but his total compensation package totaled $411,850 with medical benefits, pension plans and a car allowance.
A two-year criminal probe of the city of Oxnard by the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office found no criminal actions but did describe the city as having a “clear pattern of fiscal waste.”
A brief history
August 2010: The city is raided by the FBI and investigators from the Ventura County District Attorney’s office. It is believed that the city may have misappropriated funds in the construction of the Groundwater Recovery Enhancement and Treatment facility.
December 2011: The District Attorney’s office requests information regarding a $300 retirement stipend approved by Sotelo for top managers.
January 2012: Sotelo is placed on paid administrative leave at a closed-door session of the City Council due to differing viewpoints on core issues.
March 2012: Sotelo, on paid leave, gets a raise of $6,091, making his annual income —not including benefits — $282,982.
April 2012: The District Attorney releases its report about the investigation. No criminal charges are brought, but the city is reported as having “serious financial abuses” and record keeping that makes prosecution impossible. The DA also finds that Sotelo twice violated the law by taking a personal loan from the city for $10,000 and giving the $300 stipend to top managers.
August 2012: Mayor Tom Holden and Sotelo are among 12 city officials fined for violating state law on gifts and conflicts of interest.
December 2012: Sotelo asks, in a formal letter to the City Council, for an extension of his contract, wishing to continue serving as city manager.
February 2013: Sotelo’s job with the city ends and his contract is not renewed.
July 16, 2013: Claiming workplace harassment and retaliation during the 2010-2012 district attorney investigation, Sotelo files a lawsuit against the city claiming that he suffered “permanent injury to career prospects.”
Oct. 24, 2013: Sotelo’s lawsuit is dismissed. U.S. District Judge Fernando Olguin in Los Angeles gives Sotelo until Nov. 12 to file an amended complaint.