COMPTON — Former City Manager Laverta S. Montgomery has filed a $1-million sexual harassment claim accusing City Councilman Robert L. Adams of leading a move to fire her last October because she spurned his proposal of marriage.
Upon turning Adams down, "I was terminated from my job in violation of my written contract and without due process," the 49-year-old Montgomery charged in a one-page notice to city officials. "In addition, I was subjected to sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress." On Tuesday, the council voted to reject the claim, opening the way for Montgomery to bring a civil suit against the city.
Adams dismissed the allegations. "When I want laughs I go to Las Vegas, Nev., and listen to Rodney Dangerfield, Red Foxx and Richard Pryor; that's my comment," Adams said.
Firing Is Defended
The 55-year-old councilman, a widower who operates a funeral home business in Compton and Pomona, denied that his vote to fire Montgomery had anything to do with personal relationships. However, he declined to say whether he had indeed asked the city manager to marry him, and he refused to characterize whatever off-the-job association they might have had.
"I'm not going to make something like that a publicity football," Adams said. "I've been knowing Mrs. Montgomery over 10 years. I supported her in that position and I supported terminating her because she did not attend (to) her employment."
Adams said he had "no idea" what led Montgomery to level such an accusation.
"I can't speak for her," he said. "But I know people, you know, in the heat of some situations, they reach for straws. It's not anything personal with me. I have no vendetta with Mrs. Montgomery. In fact, I want to help her in whatever way I can."
Montgomery, widowed since 1979, could not be reached for comment. Despite losing her city post, she has continued to serve as one of five state Lottery Commission members.
"The only thing I can say is it's an allegation," Councilman Maxcy D. Filer said of the former city manager's complaint against Adams. "He says it didn't happen."
Montgomery's claim also names Filer and Councilman Floyd A. James as having contributed to the sexual harassment and discrimination because they joined Adams in approving her ouster. Mayor Walter R. Tucker and Councilwoman Jane D. Robbins voted against the dismissal.
"I think it's frivolous," said Filer, who had long complained that Montgomery was chronically absent from her city job. "She was never there for me to do that (harassment)," he quipped.
Montgomery was dismissed on Oct. 28 by a 3-2 vote after a 20-minute, closed-door council session. The action ended her 15-year city career, the last 3 1/2 of which had been spent as the chief administrator. Only three months earlier, the council had given her a three-year contract extension at an annual salary of $73,452. The dismissal motion was made by Adams, even though he had been a staunch supporter of her in the past.
Montgomery received full pay for several weeks after her firing, although city officials classified her as being on administrative leave. When she never attempted to appeal the council's decision, Adams said, she was paid about $53,000 in back benefits and removed from the payroll.
A former Montgomery assistant, James Goins, was named acting city manager. In January, the council awarded him a $28,000 pay raise that brought his annual salary to $79,000, about $6,000 more than Montgomery received.