MONTEBELLO — A former golf course worker has sued Councilman Art Payan and the city, alleging he was fired for refusing to provide the councilman with preferential treatment on the municipal links.
Gabriel Castro of Whittier alleges in the lawsuit that he was fired Jan. 18 because he denied Payan's request to play on the city golf course the day before, when all starting times were booked, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit, filed Nov. 25 in Superior Court in Los Angeles, also names as a defendant Montebello golf pro Thomas Camacho. The city leases its golf shop to Camacho and contracts with him to schedule use of the course. Camacho employed Castro part time to schedule course play.
The lawsuit alleges Payan supported Camacho's contract as the city's golf pro in exchange for preferential treatment on the course, including free use of the course and golf carts, and being allowed to play without a reservation even if other players were to lose their playing slots.
When Castro, 72, refused to provide the councilman with preferential treatment, "Payan threatened to withdraw or terminate his support . . . from Camacho's operation" if Castro was not fired, the lawsuit alleges.
Payan denied in an interview last week that he asked Camacho to fire Castro.
"I said nothing and I did nothing," said Payan, a 10-handicap golfer who plays once a week.
Payan said city policy allows council members, commissioners and other officials free use of the course and golf carts. He said he has played before without a reservation, but never at the expense of another player.
"I've gone out there when there was an available opening, just like any golfer goes out there," he said. "I've never bumped anybody."
Camacho said he had received numerous complaints about the way Castro treated golfers and it was the last straw when he turned away Payan.
"You never tell anybody no," Camacho said. "You have options. You put them on standby. There are a lot of things you can do to get these things worked out. (Castro) never gave (Payan) an option."
The lawsuit seeks unspecified general and punitive damages.