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Former Bell Gardens Official Sues City, Council Members

July 30, 1992|JILL GOTTESMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BELL GARDENS — Former Bell Gardens City Manager Claude L. Booker, who was fired after the ouster of four council members in March, is suing the city, alleging breach of his $124,000-a-year contract.

Booker is asking for $266,706 in unpaid salary, plus $4,482 in lost retirement compensation. According to the suit, the sum covers the remaining months of his three-year contract, which expires in July, 1994.

Booker has been employed off and on by Bell Gardens since 1967. He was one of four managers--including the city clerk, city attorney and police chief--who were fired or left office after the March special election.

In that election, a Latino majority was elected for the first time in Bell Gardens, where close to 90% of the residents are Latino.

The new council members, all vocal foes of Booker during his tenure, also were named in the suit, which was filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court. The claim alleges that council members Josefina Macias, George T. Deitch, Rodolfo Garcia and Frank B. Duran acted "maliciously and with intent to harm" throughout negotiations with the former city manager about his severance pay. Booker is seeking unspecified punitive damages from each council member.

City Atty. Alan Gross declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Booker filed a similar claim against the city in April, which was rejected by the City Council.

When Booker was fired in March, the former city manager predicted that the city would "try to stiff me on (the) contract," and told the council that he would sue to recover what he said is owed to him.

After his termination, Booker was offered one month's severance pay, according to the lawsuit. His employment agreement, the suit says, provides for either six months' severance pay or the balance due under the terms of his contract, whichever is larger.

Shortly after the March elections, Booker, who remains unemployed, organized a short-lived effort to uncover alleged voter fraud during the campaign.

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