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Ex-council aide gets $125,000

L.A. City Council votes to settle suit by Ed Reyes' office manager, who says she was fired by him for running against a candidate he endorsed.

August 18, 2007|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

A former employee of Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes was awarded a $125,000 settlement Friday after she alleged in a lawsuit that Reyes fired her because she ran for office against a candidate he was endorsing.

Ruby De Vera was working as Reyes' office manager in 2005 when she ran for the City Council's 14th District, which covers the city's eastside and borders Reyes' 1st District. De Vera came in third, losing to then-school board member Jose Huizar, whom Reyes was backing.

"On Nov. 14, 2005, just a week after returning from the elections, plaintiff returned to work only to be fired by Reyes for being an 'embarrassment,' " the lawsuit states.

De Vera found a new job in the office of City Controller Laura Chick as a clerk and has since moved to a clerk's position in the city Department of Building and Safety.

The lawsuit put Reyes' council colleagues in the position of having to decide whether settling the case was in the city's best financial interest while also knowing that going to court probably would mean that Reyes and possibly other council members would have to testify.

The council voted 9 to 2 to settle the case, with Reyes not participating in the vote.

Dissenting were council members Bill Rosendahl and Dennis Zine.

"She's gaming the system, in my opinion, and taxpayers end up paying the bill," Rosendahl said. "[Council] employees serve at will."

Elected officials in Los Angeles have the ability to hire and fire at will, without dealing with civil service requirements.

De Vera and her attorney could not be reached for comment Friday.

Reyes was on vacation this week and his deputy, Tony Perez, would say only that "it's a personnel matter that we are glad is behind us."

Councilwoman Janice Hahn said she was torn over the case -- initially wanting to go to court, but ultimately joining the majority in choosing to settle.

"It bothered me because I thought it sent the wrong message to our at-will employees that if they were terminated they could sue," Hahn said. "But the case was made to me that we could have a difficult time in court because of things said when she was let go, and I was convinced that this was the best way to put this behind us, especially for Councilman Reyes."

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steve.hymon@latimes.com

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