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$170,000 Payment to Settle Zoo Chief's Suit Approved

February 11, 1988|ANN WIENER | Times Staff Writer

The City Council agreed Wednesday to pay nearly $170,000 to Los Angeles Zoo Director Warren D. Thomas to settle a lawsuit in which he contended that he was improperly fired.

In a 10-1 vote, the council awarded Thomas $29,000 in back pay and $140,912.38 for attorney's fees.

The settlement ends a 20-month long battle between Thomas and the city in which Thomas said he was denied due process when he was improperly fired from his job by James Hadaway, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation.

Fired in 1986

Hadaway fired Thomas on June 4, 1986, from the $73,000-a-year post, charging that Thomas used racial epithets around zoo employees, improperly handled animal transactions and used zoo supplies for his own purpose.

Thomas filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court seeking compensatory damages and reinstatement. Thomas received a preliminary injunction from U.S. District Judge William J. Rea allowing him to go back to work during the city's hearing on whether he was improperly fired.

After an impartial panel found that Thomas had been improperly terminated, Rea ordered that he be permanently reinstated, awarded back pay and attorney's fees and, in the future, be allowed due process of law.

As part of the settlement, the city agreed to drop its appeal of Rea's decision reinstating Thomas, and the zoo director agreed to drop his suit against the city. Thomas also agreed to drop a defamation claim against Hadaway.

The settlement is subject to the approval of Mayor Tom Bradley, who is expected back from a trip to West Germany today. Mayoral aides said Bradley would not comment until he has seen the settlement agreement.

"All I wanted was this thing brought to an end. . . . The zoo is progressing and I have more than enough to say grace over," a smiling Thomas said in his zoo office.

Thomas, who has been zoo director since June, 1974, said that although he was awarded back pay for the time he did not work, the money will not be enough to pay all the debts he incurred during the six months he was unemployed.

"It isn't exactly a grand nest egg I'm going to run off with," he said.

Gloria Allred, Thomas' attorney, said her client has put the case in the past and is "looking forward to a new chapter with the zoo and the people of Los Angeles."

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