Fired building official files
claim against city
Published: December 20, 2013
LESS THAN two weeks after IT manager
Steve McInchak filed a claim against the City of Carmel for
taking him off the job and searching his house for evidence that
he broke the law while he administered the city’s computer
network, former building official John Hanson, who was fired in
August, also submitted a complaint against the city this week,
alleging that officials at city hall violated his contract,
defamed him, discriminated against him for being disabled and
for serving in the military, and prevented him from getting a
new job elsewhere.
A 25-year city employee who was also a member of the U.S. Army
National Guard until he retired last summer, Hanson said things
went sour in March, shortly after the hiring of administrative
services director Susan Paul by city administrator Jason
During the months leading up to his firing, according to his
claim, “the city undercut Mr. Hanson, interfered with his
performance of his duties and misrepresented his work.” He said
top city administrators, namely Stilwell and Paul, interfered
with his duties, “sometimes without conferring with, or even
informing” him, unduly criticized him about his job performance,
took contradictory and inconsistent positions, and discriminated
against him “based on age, medical condition/disability and
status as an active duty member of the military.”
In short, he said, they “generally created a hostile work
environment” that led to his termination without basis or due
process when, on Aug. 5, he was summoned to the Carmel Police
Department to meet with Chief Mike Calhoun and Stilwell. In that
meeting, Hanson was fired, effective immediately, and was
subsequently denied severance.
“City officials, including one or more elected officials, then
began an effort to vilify and discredit Mr. Hanson, describing
him in ways that the average listener knew his identity, and
then declaring him unfit for his employment, all the while
leaking confidential personnel information,” according to his
Administrators violated his rights under the California and
U.S. constitutions, and state and federal laws, as well as local
law, by putting him on leave without cause or notice, preventing
him from doing his job, not allowing him to be heard and
unfairly interrogating him, Hanson said.
“The City of Carmel-by-the-Sea’s actions constituted wrongful
termination,” the document he filed at city hall Tuesday states.
Further, city officials violated his privacy rights and exposed
him to hatred, contempt and ridicule by publishing “defamatory
and slanderous statements” indicating Hanson was guilty of
misconduct and lacked proper credentials for the job. Those
actions, he said, damaged him professionally and have caused
“irreparable loss of his reputation in the community.” They also
stigmatized and branded him by impugning his reputation and his
standing, and their words and actions caused him severe
“In the alternative, the city breached the written contract
with Hanson by terminating him, forcing him out and failing to
deal with Mr. Hanson in good faith,” the claim said.
And then, when he sought work elsewhere, city officials
“improperly and unlawfully interfered” with his attempts to get
gainful employment, preventing him from getting hired.
Hanson, 53, a U.S. Army veteran who has served with the
National Guard in Iraq and Afghanistan, accused the city of age
discrimination and said officials fired him because he suffers
from post traumatic stress disorder, and because he continued to
serve as a military reservist.
He also claimed that numerous firings and other disciplinary
actions at city hall show a pattern of age discrimination.
“The actions of the city to arbitrarily suspend or fire
employees during the past year had a disparate impact upon older
workers, and the city’s tactics were intended to, and did, abuse
the processes of involuntary leave and summary terminations in
order to scare and intimidate employees of the city, prevent
them from testifying about what they have seen and learned, and
force them from their employment for money-saving reasons that
cause harm to the employees,” according to his claim. Those
suspensions include McInchak, IT assistant Rose Franzen, and
administrative coordinators Leslie Fenton and Margi Perotti.
He also said his termination was retaliation for his being a
whistleblower, participating as a witness in Jane Miller’s
sexual harassment lawsuit against the city, and complaining to
management about “unlawful discrimination.”
Hanson is seeking compensation for damage to his livelihood,
reputation, professional career, and personal integrity and
health in excess of $25,000, and his claim states his damages
continue to accrue.
“The city received the claim and is reviewing it,” Stilwell
said. “No action has been taken, but the city will take required
action as with any other claim.”
The city has 45 days to respond to the claim, and if it is
denied, Hanson and his attorney, Michael Stamp, can sue the city
in Monterey County Superior Court.