Ex-County Counsel Sues L.A. to Get Job Back

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Los Angeles county’s former top attorney claims the Board of Supervisors violated a public meetings law when it forced him to resign last year, and he wants his job back.
     Mark Saladino sued the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in Superior Court on Thursday under California’s Ralph Brown Act, claiming he was summoned to appear at a “mystery” meeting with Supervisor Michael Antonovich, a Republican, and Supervisor Hilda Solis, a Democrat, on the morning of June 10, 2015.
     The county’s attorney Skip Miller, with Miller Barondess, also attended, according to Saladino, who says the supervisors told him he was being reassigned and would have to announce his resignation.
     “Supervisors Antonovich and Solis demanded that Mr. Saladino issue a press release containing a fictitious reason for leaving to be delivered the next day, informing the public that he resigned as county counsel on his own volition and requested reassignment,” the complaint states.
     Saladino says he tried to negotiate a transfer “commensurate with his rank, experience, and skills” to avoid damaging his reputation. But he says Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a Democrat — and the only member of the five-person board to oppose his appointment in September 2014 — vetoed that proposal.
     Saladino says he was told he could take a lesser position in the treasury and tax office, where he had previously served, or take administrative leave until another position was available.
     “In light of the damage already done to Mr. Saladino’s career and reputation, and fearing further financial loss, he chose to return to the Department of Treasurer and Tax Collector in a subordinate position,” the complaint states.
     The Board of Supervisors approved the transfer in a closed session. Saladino believes the decision to oust him was made in another closed session on June 9, 2015, one day before his meeting with Antonovich, Solis and Miller.
     He says Supervisor Don Knabe, a Republican, was excluded from the meeting because he would have opposed Saladino’s firing.
     According to Saladino, the meeting was not on the board’s public agenda and is “certainly a reportable event under the Brown Act.”
     “If the board did consider reportable issues in the closed session, no report was released thereafter in violation of Brown Act requirements,” the complaint states.
     Saladino’s ouster was first reported by Los Angeles Daily News in December, when he filed a claim for damages with the county.
     In a letter attached to the complaint as an exhibit, Miller responds to Saladino’s attorneys by claiming that the reassignment was not reportable because Saladino had requested it.
     “As you know, there was no change in Mr. Saladino’s compensation, he kept his automobile allowance, and he asked to be transferred back to his old department. His requests were agreed to; he got the transfer he requested; and to this day, Mr. Saladino is still employed by the county,” Miller wrote in the 2-page letter, dated March 21.
     Saladino asks the court to void his resignation, order the board to hand over any minutes or recordings of the closed sessions, and an issue an injunction barring the board from firing county employees “outside of a notice and public meeting.”
     He is represented by Robert Baker with Baker, Keener & Nahra.
     County spokesman David Sommers told said he has not seen the lawsuit and declined to comment.
     “We don’t comment on pending litigation and personnel matters,” he said.

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