Following a closed session held before the council’s regular Tuesday night meeting, Lakeport Mayor Kenny Parlet reported that the council had rejected the unlimited civil claim case Steve Brookes filed Dec. 30.
Brookes, 56, of Kelseyville had served as the city’s attorney for 30 years by the time the council unanimously voted to terminate him during a closed session last July 2, as Lake County News has reported.
In addition to wrongful termination, Brookes alleges the city breached his contract – particularly as it related to payment of salary, health, retirement and other benefits – and failed to provide him with due process.
City officials have told Lake County News that they cannot disclose the reasons for terminating Brookes, who about two and a half years before his firing had been arrested for DUI and hit and run with property damage in Kelseyville.
The case later was settled as a misdemeanor DUI, but it would earn Brookes a public reproval by the State Bar in January 2012.
Brookes previously also had withheld comment on why he was terminated, but in his claim document he alleges that it was City Manager Margaret Silveira who urged the council to fire him.
He alleges that city officials “were presented with various allegations to support City Manager Margaret Silveira’s desire to remove a potential rival as Claimant had exercised his free speech rights with respect to certain matters in which City Manager Margaret Silveira maintained a position contrary to that of Claimant.”
Silveira and city Finance Director Dan Buffalo are listed as the two principal witnesses to the issues that had arisen between Silveira and Brookes, according to the claim.
The most recent contract the city council had approved with Brookes in December 2012 – which had been good through the following December – gave him an annual salary of $50,796 and a retirement package of 2.5 percent at age 55 under the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.
That same contract provided that if Brookes was terminated prior to Dec. 31, 2013, he was to be paid six months’ compensation and accrued paid leave.
However, the contract also stated that Brookes wouldn’t receive the six months’ pay if he was terminated for a number of reasons, including malfeasance, dishonesty, moral turpitude, willful or corrupt misconduct, willfully causing damage to public property or wasting public supplies, acts or misconduct that bring scandal or disrepute to the city, insubordination or absence without leave.
Brookes’ claim indicates he did not receive the six months’ pay.
It states that he has lost six months of full salary as well as a variety of benefits – vested insurance, health insurance, retiree health coverage, vacation and sick time.
The California Tort Claims Act requires that claims against public entities be filed within six months for death or for injury to a person or to personal property, with all other claims to be filed within a year.
Based on the law, the council had 45 days to act after the matter was presented to it, and in fact took action just a week after the case was filed with the city.
Once a claim is rejected, the claimant has six months to file a lawsuit, according to the government code.
Email Elizabeth Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.