INGLEWOOD – Reports continue to leak from City Hall employees about the hostile work environment that has permeated and grown under the leadership of Mayor James Butts and City Manager Artie Fields. Another employee was forced to file a lawsuit related to a hostile work environment after his colleagues appear to have discovered he was gay.
Alan Smith was hired in the city’s planning department as a building permit technician around April 2016. Months later, in October, he alleges that his co-worker, Abdul Lachgar, invited Smith into his office and asked him to “close the door and turn to look” at his computer monitor.
Lachgar played a video for Smith called “Eat Da Poo Poo” where a Ugandan pastor was making hateful, degrading, and demoralizing comments about sexuality.
Smith claims to have kept his sexuality private, and reported Lachgar the department’s director, Christopher Jackson a week after the incident took place. Smith then met with Jackson and HR Director Jose Cortes who told him they would “look into it”.
Two days later Jackson held a division-wide meeting, which resulted in Lachgar being walked out by HR.
Smith then began to experience issues with his supervisor Karen Castro who had been tasked with training him.
She began to ignore his questions. Stopped training him, and would tell other employees he was a “sell out” and “throw you under the bus”.
Castro would call him a “sissy panda” in front of other employees, including Anita Castellanos.
Smith continued to complain about the harassment, bullying, and his colleagues not speaking to him, which was met with deaf ears.
After returning from the annual two-week holiday closure of city hall, Smith returned to work and put down his backpack. He alleges when he came back, his bag was moved and a “fleshlight” sex toy was placed in his bag.
Because of the months long retaliation he claimed to have endured, on Jan. 10, 2017, Smith requested counseling to cope with the bullying and stress. Cortes and then assistant city manager Mike Falkow approved his request and gave him a return to work date six days later .
Two days later, On Jan. Cortes and former assistant city manager Mike Falkow ordered Smith to attend a “fit for duty” psychological exam before he could return to work. He had his exam Jan. 18 and by Feb. 2 the results came back he was not fit to return to work.
Smith was never allowed to return to work and was terminated for not passing probation.
Smith’s case follows the sexual harassment claims made by a security officer working for the library’s, and the city is still in the middle of Melanie McDade’s lawsuit.
McDade alleges the bullying and harassment in City Hall is well-known. She claims employees witnessed her being mistreated by the mayor and they said nothing. This pattern is demonstrable through lawsuits filed by Barbara Ohno, Leonard Williams, Alan Smith, and treasurer Wanda Brown.
They all allege City Hall is a toxic place to work, and policies put in place to protect employees appear to be ignored.
It leads one to conclude the city’s operations are a mess because the employees are doing everything else but their job.
The city mandates employees take sexual harassment training which includes employees speaking up when they either see or hear comments that were described in explicit detail by Smith and Williams. The federal government also says the workplace is to be free of bullying and harassment.
The City hasn’t had a balanced budget in close to a decade, and we continue to be on the hook for legal fees and settlements that are shielded from the city’s warrant registers.
How many other employees are being bullied and/or sexually harassed? Or bullied over their sexuality?
Smith’s case was settled in Dec. 2020 for an undisclosed settlement. The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice.