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ORANGE : Suit Alleges Wrongful Termination by City

August 24, 1995|LESLEY WRIGHT

A former city official has filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit alleging that her gender, age and religion were factors in her dismissal.

Ellen Angele Bonneville, former operations manager of the Economic Development Department, was dismissed from her job in November, 1994, during a restructuring. In a suit filed Aug. 11 in Orange County Superior Court, she alleges that she was fired because she was over 40, a woman and "not a Mormon."

Bonneville, who was hired in 1986, also alleges that she was fired in retaliation for being a "whistle-blower" about redevelopment loans made to political cronies of city officials for seismic retrofit work on their businesses.

Assistant City Atty. David De Berry said Wednesday that his office is just beginning to review the case, but that "we don't think there is any merit to the allegations." The city has 60 days to respond, De Berry said.

In the suit, Bonneville alleges that after David F. Dixon was hired in 1986 as city manager, the city began "a pattern of favoring the recruitment, employment, promotion and continued employment of males, younger persons and persons of the Mormon faith," which some city officials have said is Dixon's religious affiliation.

Dixon, who resigned from his city position this week because of a recurrence of cancer, would not comment on the allegations. Other officials named as defendants in the suit, including City Council members, referred calls to the city attorney's office.

Bonneville is seeking back pay and punitive damages for emotional distress, according to the suit filed by Santa Ana attorney James G. Harker.

Neither Bonneville nor Harker could be reached for comment Wednesday.

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