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.”