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COMMUNITY NEWS: Southeast

BELL GARDENS : Ex-City Clerk Files Suit Alleging Racism

March 13, 1994|MARY HELEN BERG

Former City Clerk Martha Ochoa has filed a lawsuit against the city and Mayor Frank Duran alleging sex, race and age discrimination.

Ochoa served as clerk from April, 1992, until she was dismissed from the $48,000-a-year position by the City Council last May. She received three months' severance pay.

Ochoa was the second city clerk to be fired within 13 months, and one of several top administrators to lose their jobs during the tumultuous months following the historic 1991 recall of four City Council members and subsequent election of recall movement leaders.

The complaint filed March 3 in Superior Court states that Duran fostered "demoralizing and derogatory treatment of women and people of color" at City Hall and that he verbally abused and intimidated female and minority employees.

The complaint further alleges that Ochoa was fired after refusing to perform an unspecified "task which was illegal and unethical."

Duran dispute the charges. He said Ochoa was dismissed because her work was "not up to par."

"The charges have no merit," he said. "I've never been anything other than respectful to the lady. . . . I never said anything to the lady that would cause her to do anything but a better job."

City Atty. Michael Estrada would not comment on the pending litigation, but City Manager Charles Gomez called Ochoa's charges "bizarre."

"It mystifies me," he said, pointing out that Ochoa, a Mexican American, is charging Duran, who is also Latino, with racism.

Ochoa's complaint is not the first time Duran has been charged with sexism. In a run-in last year that has become part of the city's political lore, then-Mayor Josie Macias hurled a chair at Duran during a closed council session, complaining that she was disgusted by his allegedly sexist attitude.

Ochoa is seeking unspecified punitive damages, according to the 20-page complaint. She could not be reached for comment.

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