EL SEGUNDO — A former building and safety director has filed suit against the city, asserting that he was wrongly forced out of the post last August.
McKinley (Mac) Dalgleish, 56, is seeking $3 million in compensatory damages in the suit filed in Torrance Superior Court. The suit alleges that City Manager Nick Romaniello violated the city's personnel regulations when he told the 19-year city employee to resign or face termination because of what Romaniello called "philosophical managing differences" between the two.
The suit also asks for an unspecified amount in punitive damages, payment of all legal fees and Dalgleish's reinstatement as building and safety director with no loss of accrued benefits.
The suit, filed Dec. 9, says that during his 19 years working for the city, Dalgleish had received excellent ratings on his semiannual performance evaluations and that he was not given any notice of misconduct or unsatisfactory performance that warranted disciplinary action.
Notified of Action
According to the suit, El Segundo personnel regulations provide that an employee is to be notified of the extent and nature of any disciplinary action and the reasons for it, and the employee is given five days to respond to any proposed disciplinary action.
Faced with Romaniello's ultimatum, Dalgleish chose to resign because if he were fired, he would have lost an estimated 25% of accrued sick leave and vacation pay--a loss of nearly $8,000--that he would be paid if he resigned. Dalgleish and his attorney maintain that he was, in effect, discharged because the city code defines resignation as termination "initiated by the employee."
"I think it will be pretty easy to show that if Dalgleish hadn't resigned, he would have been fired," said John Schimmenti, Dalgleish's attorney. Schimmenti said that he does not expect the case to reach court for two or three years.
Dalgleish said in an interview that he had been called to the city manager's office on Aug. 1 and was given a memo ordering him to quit or be fired. He said that he later met with Romaniello about the matter and at first refused to resign.
"There was no cause for my discharge. I told him that if there were any philosophical managing differences between us, we should sit down and talk them out," Dalgleish said. "But he just told me, 'No. I'm the boss and that's that.' "
The next day, after finding out about the cut in vacation and sick leave pay, that would accompany his termination, Dalgleish said, he told Romaniello that he would resign.
Romaniello, a city planner who had been promoted to city manager three months earlier, declined to comment on the matter, citing the pending lawsuit.
Dalgleish said he believes his ouster was not based completely on differences in managerial beliefs.
He said that, when a strong anti-development sentiment began to grow in El Segundo, Romaniello "capitalized on it" by aligning himself with like-minded members of the City Council.
"He didn't like me cooperating with developers, homeowners, contractors and such, and viewed me as a threat to his reputation and political ambitions," said Dalgleish, who is now working as a building consultant.
Dalgleish said he had considered running for the City Council in the April 8 election as a result of the public support his case has garnered, but decided that his lawsuit would make it impossible.
"I discovered a tremendous outpouring of public support," he said. "I was urged to run for the council while I was working for the city but couldn't by law. I decided to take out (candidacy) papers to evaluate the situation.
"I was undecided about the situation until this week, and I'm not going to run. Politics and legal proceedings just don't mix. It would be a strain on the other council members to have a colleague suing the city."