Friday, August 3rd, 2007 at 6:29 pm in Uncategorized.
Pacifica’s Chief Building Officer Mike Angel is suing his employer for damages from what he claims is retaliation for trying to blow the whistle on alleged illegal city dealings.
In a civil suit filed in San Mateo County Superior Court on July 5, Angel claims that he witnessed and attempted to report repeated illegal activity in his department and special favors for elected officials but was “threatened with termination if he didn’t ‘play ball.'”
After each of these incidents in which “Angel refused to ‘play ball,'” the suit states, Angel received increasingly “hostile treatment at work.” Besides threats of being fired, he was ordered never to speak directly to the city attorney again and “on more than one occasion, Angel was told ‘s–t rolls down the hill’ in reference to Angel being the scapegoat for the wrongdoing.”
Named defendants in the suit are the City of Pacifica, Mayor pro Tem Jim Vreeland, and Angel’s boss, Planning Director Michael Crabtree.
The suit describes a July 6, 2006 letter Angel received informing him that he was “under investigation for failing to perform his duties properly” in relation to the condemnation of a house at 932 Park Pacifica Ave. that was destroyed in a fire.
“Angel had built a reputation as a no nonsense inspector who thoroughly knew his field. Angel performed approximately 3,800 inspections throughout Pacifica every year, with a virtual zero rate of incident. Angel followed the rules and refused to ‘look the other way’ even when asked by his superiors,” the suit says.
“The investigation, report and discipline were pretextual and the result of Chief Building Officer Angel’s refusal to perform perceived illegal activity and reporting perceived wrongdoing to the appropriate agencies and city officials,” the suit concludes.
Angel claims last year he was asked by former City Manager Joe Tanner to waive peer review for two projects. In 2005, he claims former Director of Public Works Scott Holmes said that the relocation and redesign of the old treatment plant on Beach Boulevard would be done without plans, permits or inspection. Angel said he was instructed by Crabtree that “the normal process was to be ‘ignored'” and that the work would be “‘fast-tracked'” without reviews, pursuant to a directive by Vreeland. Angel reported a similar ignoring of the permit and inspection process for the city’s Calera Creek Water Recycling Plant project.
Each time he balked, he was threatened with being fired.
“As a result of the threats and hostile environment, Angel was left with no other option than to talk to the San Mateo County District Attorney,” the suit says. “Unfortunately, the City of Pacifica administration knew Angel had complained of wrong doing and spoke with the District Attorney. Angel was frozen out of all normal meetings and treated like a pariah.”
The suit also alleges that Angel found Vreeland conducting work on his home – such as gutting the bathroom and re-wiring the garage – without permits.
Angel is suing for unspecified monetary damages for violation of California Labor Code, violation of whistle blowing statues, interference with contractual relations, violation of civil rights, defamation and intentional infliction of emotion distress. He is represented by Paul Smoot of San Mateo’s Anderlini, Finkelstein, Emerick & Smoot.
Pacifica City Attorney Cecilia Quick was not available for comment today. A case management conference is scheduled in court for Nov. 8.