Former manager's secretary sues city

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By David Giuliani

A former secretary with the city is suing her former employer, alleging breach of contract and wrongful retaliatory discharge.

Pearl Maes, who worked for the city from 2000 to 2006, filed a lawsuit in June naming the city of Las Vegas as a defendant.

In the lawsuit, Maes, represented by Albuquerque attorney Gilbert Vigil, alleges that she always accomplished her “overwhelming workload” as the secretary to the city manager. But she contends that she was subjected to a “hostile and intimidating work environment.”

According to the lawsuit, Maes states that she submitted a letter of complaint to interim City Manager Esther Garduo-Montoya in 2005 about City Councilman Cruz Roybal, who she alleged harassed her for supposedly being Councilman Eugene Romero’s “biggest supporter.”

She maintained in the lawsuit that Roybal was upset that Romero was elected to the council, but she noted that she didn’t live in Romero’s ward and never campaigned for him.

She states that her complaint wasn’t resolved.

In December 2005, Maes requested a $2-an-hour raise from then-City Manager John Avila, according to the lawsuit. She didn’t get the increase, allegedly because of a limited city budget.

The lawsuit also contends that other employees were allowed to come to work two hours late without facing reprimands or loss of pay for the missed hours. They also were allowed to be out sick without calling in first, Maes maintains.

One City Hall employee was “allowed to come and go as he pleased as he was favored by the mayor,” who was then Henry Sanchez, the lawsuit states. The solid waste director found enough wrongdoing by that employee that the employee should have been terminated, yet this employee was never even reprimanded, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit doesn’t detail the alleged wrongdoing.

Maes states that she was eventually given a $1-an-hour raise, but a secretary working with her got a $1.50-an-hour hike. Maes maintains that this was done even though she was doing the bulk of the work.

Maes maintains the other secretary shredded documents related to Maes’s complaints at the request of former City Manager Morris Madrid after he was fired.

The lawsuit states that Maes brought the document shredding to the attention of Garduo-Montoya and council members Romero, Arthur Vigil, Michael Gallegos and Louie Trujillo. At the time, the four council members were allies on a number of issues, including the firing of Madrid, an action Mayor Sanchez vehemently opposed. Nothing was done in response to her complaints, according to the lawsuit.

In March 2006, Maes’ position was abolished, and she had no choice but to accept a position at the city’s solid waste transfer station, receiving the same pay, according to the lawsuit.

Three months later, Maes resigned her position. The lawsuit maintains that she brought a doctor into her work environment and that he found that its conditions were “intolerable and untenable.” She had been suffering chronic headaches, arm pain and stress, according to the lawsuit.

Her lawsuit is seeking back pay, benefits and help with future openings and promotional opportunities.

City Manager Sharon Caballero declined to discuss the lawsuit on Monday, saying the city doesn’t comment on pending litigation. Madrid, now a councilman, also declined to comment.

However, Councilman Roybal said that if the city settled with Maes, “I would file against her personally.”

“She did say that I harassed her. I talked to the attorney, and he didn’t think so,” Roybal said. “I wouldn’t get on anybody’s case if they supported somebody.”

According to the court file, the city hasn’t yet responded to the lawsuit. Online court records indicate that the matter is still pending.