Former Manhattan Beach city attorney Robert Wadden filed a $1.5 million claim against the city of Manhattan Beach on September 16 for age discrimination, breach of contract, defamation and interference with economic opportunity.
In the claim, Wadden argues the city failed to pay a “contractually mandated severance upon termination.” The claim has been passed on to the city’s third party administrator, AdminSure, for review, said city attorney Roxanne Diaz.
Wadden was fired in April, two weeks after an anonymous letter was made public that accused former city manager Geoff Dolan of sexual harassment while on a team-building retreat. Dolan had abruptly left his position with the city about a year before, which left residents questioning his $195,000 severance pay.
Along with his claim, Wadden filed an additional document, under seal, on which was typed, “Supporting Documentation for Wadden Claim for Damages.” He wrote that the document was submitted under seal at the city’s request.
Diaz wrote a letter in response stating that the city was unaware of the request. She returned the envelope, unopened. “Claims for damages are public record and if the documents “under seal” form the basis for your claim, the City cannot keep such documents confidential because you have requested that the City do so,” she wrote.
The city has 45 days, starting when the claim was filed, to decide whether to accept or reject the claim. If the claim is rejected, Wadden can choose to file a lawsuit against the city.
Wadden said that he was advised not to comment on the claim, since it will likely go into litigation.
“It’s in its early stages,” said Diaz, who was hired as the city attorney in September. “I was not in the office when this occurred, so I myself am going to have to have some time to determine the merits of the claim.”
In March, the City Council released a statement referencing to Wadden’s legal advice regarding Dolan’s departure. “We were given legal advice previously that was based on concern for Mr. Dolan’s privacy to the detriment of the community’s legitimate interest in knowing why we, as a council, made that decision…. We hope that you will forgive us for relying on legal advice that resulted in our silence,” said the council in the statement.
In August, the city rejected a $2 million claim filed by Dolan. Diaz said the city receives claims frequently and that rejecting them is perfunctory.
“The city just wants to move forward,” Diaz said, adding, “but of course, we’ll deal with (Wadden’s) claim like we do with every other claim that the city receives.”