The city of Galt has settled a sexual harassment lawsuit against a former employee for $600,000 rather than spend as much or perhaps more defending the suit at trial.
The plaintiff, Angela Long, claimed the city did not protect her from unwanted comments by a fellow employee, David Belser.
The city's liability insurance will pay $600,000, according to the settlement finalized Monday.
Long will receive $325,000, while her San Francisco-based attorney will receive $275,000.
The payments were made by the city's insurance pool, and will have no effect on the city's general fund, according to City Manager Jason Behrmann.
"While the city denies any wrongdoing, it was determined that the settlement of this matter was in the city's best interest from a financial standpoint. The resolution of this case, which includes the voluntary resignation by Long, will allow the public works department to put this matter behind it and move forward," the city said in a written statement.
Debra Kochman, one of Long's attorneys, said the lawsuit was difficult for Long to go through.
"She tried to be a model employee and was a great employee," Kochman said.
Long worked at the city's wastewater treatment plant maintaining operational equipment and taking samples.
As part of the settlement, the city is required to purge Long's employment file, including copies of a performance evaluation, and provide a letter of recommendation for future employment. Until Feb. 15, she was on paid administrative leave.
The parties have spent months in mediation attempting to settle the lawsuit, which claims that the city did not protect Long from provocative comments made by Belser, who was also named in the suit.
The city was informed by its insurance administrators that the cost of defending the case through trial would cost in excess of $500,000 since it was required to hire two attorneys — one to defend the city and another to defend Belser.
An award of even $1 could force the city to reimburse Long for her attorney's fees, at a cost of $575 per hour and expected to exceed $750,000 in total, according to the city.
Long claims Belser used inappropriate slang in describing sexual acts and anatomy, and showed her nude photos on his phone and computer. Even after repeated complaints to her supervisors, Belser was not disciplined for months, according to Sacramento County civil court records.
Long said she repeatedly complained about Belser to supervisor Bo Dahlberg, who she claimed did not act quickly on those concerns. Dahlberg is currently the city's wastewater systems supervisor.
In a deposition last summer, Dahlberg said under oath that just a couple of weeks after Belser began work, Long complained to him that Belser made sexual advances towards her when she was alone with him in a city truck, according to court records. Long allegedly demanded Belser stop the truck so she could get out.
After almost three months, Long said in court documents, she learned that Dahlberg had yet to even talk to Belser about his conduct, much less report it to former Public Works Director Gregg Halliday or human resources, so she went to human resources herself. Long's attorney said Dahlberg had led her to believe that he would handle it.
Records show Belser was let go in fall 2010, shortly after Long reported his alleged behavior to human resources.
Long complained to human resources not only about Belser's harassment, but also that "Dahlberg failed in his supervision" when he did not take action to stop Belser and did not report her complaints as he was supposed to, according to court records.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.