COMPTON — The City Council has agreed to pay $80,000 to settle a federal sex discrimination suit brought by former City Manager Laverta S. Montgomery, who claimed that she was fired in 1986 after spurning a marriage proposal from Councilman Robert L. Adams.
Montgomery, who became city manager in 1982 after having worked 11 years in a variety of Compton city government jobs, had filed a $1-million suit against the city, Adams and the two other councilmen who voted to oust her for alleged excessive absenteeism.
Adams has vigorously denied Montgomery's accusation.
The council voted 4 to 1 on Tuesday to accept the settlement, which was negotiated by City Atty. Wesley Fenderson Jr.
Mayor Walter R. Tucker, who joined Adams and council members Floyd A. James and Jane D. Robbins to approve the settlement, said he "just can't see not having compensation for somebody who worked that long for the city.
"I think this is the best way out," Tucker continued. "It's like a divorce--somebody's got to give and I am not going to be vindictive."
Adams agreed with Tucker, calling Montgomery an "asset to the community."
"I might (think) that the allegations (in the suit) are trivial," Adams said. But then he added, "I would like to see (Montgomery) employed by the city now. Maybe not as city manager, but in some other capacity."
Councilman Maxcy D. Filer voted to oppose the settlement, calling it a "gift of the taxpayers' money.
"I don't see why we are settling," Filer said. "There is no merit to her lawsuit. (Montgomery) was terminated for just cause."
Adams, Filer and James formed the majority when the council voted to oust Montgomery, who was paid $73,452 annually and had received a raise, a vote of confidence and a three-year contract extention only four months before her sudden termination.
It was unclear as to whether the settlement includes the three councilmen, but Filer said if it does he has no plans to accept it.
Fenderson said he recommended that the city settle because it would have a weak case if the suit had gone to trial. He said that there was scant documentation to back up the city's claims.
"We are all aware of (Montgomery's) attendance," Fenderson said. "But when you defend against a lawsuit you must make more than just statements. . . . Nobody takes record of the city manager's attendance."
Montgomery, 51, had previously received $54,701 in payments for her accrued vacation and sick pay.
"I don't feel we owed her anything," Filer said. "How could she have accrued vacation and sick time when she wasn't even here?"
But Fenderson said the city controller's records showed that to be the amount she was owed.
"Even if a person is not committed to a job, it's easy to build up that much vacation time," Fenderson said.
Things became heated when at one point Filer tried to reply to Fenderson's comments. Tucker became angry with the councilman, telling Filer that he had already spoken for "15 minutes."
But when Filer insisted on speaking, Tucker said, "If you want to make a jackass out of yourself, go on ahead."
Montgomery was unavailable for comment. She remains a member of the California Lottery Commission.