Jury Finds that the City of West Covina Properly Investigated Former Councilmember’s Mistreatment of City Staff
On March 10, 2009, a lawsuit was filed by City of West Covina employee Christopher Chung in Los Angeles Superior Court naming former West Covina City Councilman Roger Hernandez (currently a California Assemblyman for the 57th District), and the City of West Covina as defendants in a case involving allegations of discrimination, hostile work environment, failure to prevent harassment, retaliation, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Mr. Chung’s lawsuit centered on the results of an extensive investigation in November 2006 by the City of West Covina that revealed Councilmember Hernandez screamed and used profanity, on various occasions, at City staff (including Mr. Chung), a Councilmember, and a City contractor. At the conclusion of the investigation, the City Council adopted a Resolution censuring Councilmember Hernandez for his inappropriate conduct.
The City of West Covina and Councilmember Hernandez were represented by separate counsel. Prior to trial, counsel for Councilmember Hernandez filed a demurrer, motion to strike, motion for judgment on the pleadings, and a motion for summary judgment, all of which were denied. At trial, counsel for Councilmember Hernandez made a motion for non-suit and a directed verdict, but the Judge who presided over the litigation found that Mr. Chung’s case had merit and refused to dismiss the lawsuit. He ruled that there were questions of fact that had to be decided by a jury.
On January 12, 2012, a jury of eight (8) men and four (4) women returned a verdict in favor of the defendants, City of West Covina and Roger Hernandez. The jury found that the City of West Covina had acted properly in investigating the inappropriate conduct of then Councilmember Hernandez and took appropriate action to prevent future incidents. City Manager Andrew Pasmant said, “While it is unfortunate that the City had to spend resources in this matter, the City had no choice but to aggressively defend itself and its employees.”
After terminating the services of two prior defense law firms the City Council ultimately brought Myrna Castañón onboard
Myrna Castañón successfully defended the City of West Covina against two of the City’s most sensitive and high profile employment lawsuits. Each lawsuit, brought by a department head and a mid-management employee separately, alleged mistreatment by a City Councilmember, thus invited heightened interest by both the press and the public.
After terminating the services of two prior defense law firms regarding the lawsuits referred to above, the City Council ultimately brought Myrna Castañón, the Castañón Law Group onboard to represent and successfully defend the City during the remaining years of litigation up to and including trial. At the time, Ms. Castañón came highly recommended to our City Council as a Plaintiff’s attorney. I was directed to contact her and inquire if, while recognizing the necessary financial and reporting confines specific to public agencies that she would be required to work within, she would consider acting as our defense attorney. After outlining the cases and I believe to the City’s everlasting benefit, Ms. Castañón agreed to defend us. From the beginning Ms. Castañón distinguished herself by making herself available, often outside normal business hours, to answer or discuss any questions, concerns, or ideas the City Council or City Manager had regarding defense of those cases or the legal processes involved. She and her staff were extremely easy to work with. Ultimately, Ms. Castañón achieved a defense verdict in the jury trial of one of the cases and a plaintiff withdrawal/dismissal regarding the other lawsuit.
I highly recommend Myrna Castañón’s legal services to any government or private entity that finds themselves in need of outstanding, professional legal representation.
Erin Patricia Hoppe, Retired
Risk Manager 1989 thru 2011
City of West Covina
The Castañon Law Group represented me in a sworn Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) complaint
The Castañon Law Group represented me in a sworn Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) complaint filed by a resident of West Covina. Myrna Castañon’s advice and guidance displayed a great understanding of the FPPC regulations.
Ms. Castañón’s communications with staff at the FPPC resolved the resident’s specious complaint in a very professional manner. I highly recommend the Castañon Law Group to other elected officials or those seeking guidance in FPPC matters.
To find out more information about the Fair Political Practices Commission visit fppc.ca.gov