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Angeles County | Community News File / Pasadena

Official Files Bias Suit Against Council Members

April 07, 1998

A top official in the Los Angeles city attorney's office on Monday filed a federal lawsuit against members of the Pasadena City Council, alleging that they violated her civil rights when they gave her the job of city attorney and then withdrew the offer after her bankruptcy filings came to light.

Cheryl Ward, senior assistant attorney for Los Angeles, alleges that council members discriminated against her on the basis of race and gender, breached a contract, defamed her publicly and violated her privacy with leaks to the media.

"Her emotional well-being was shaken to its foundation," the lawsuit states. "Having her personal tribulations splattered in public, having been portrayed as a financial charlatan, the public embarrassment was unbearable."

The suit names council members William Crowfoot, Paul Little and Ann-Marie Villicana, former Councilman William Thomson and former City Manager Philip Hawkey.

Little said Monday that he was "anxious to get this into court because a jury of reasonable people would decide they wouldn't hire her either." Other city officials declined to comment, although City Atty. Michele Bagnerif said the city would prevail in the suit.

In February 1997, Ward accepted the council's offer to be come the city's first African-American city attorney. But the offer was withdrawn within six weeks after questions over two bankruptcies and a series of newspaper stories in which council members questioned Ward's personal finances, the lawsuit stated.

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