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CITY OFFICIAL ACCUSED OF SUDSY ASSAULT; PROCESS SERVER SAYS HE GOT BATHED IN BEER ON THE JOB.

Byline: Amy Collins Daily News Staff Writer

If you're thinking of toasting Lynn Harris on her last day as the city's third-in-command, here's some advice: Duck.

At her farewell party Monday, the deputy city manager dumped a glass of beer over the process server who handed her a copy of a harassment lawsuit naming her as a defendant, the man's attorney said Thursday.

``This is a classic example. If someone doesn't like the message, you don't kill the messenger,'' said David E. Wood, the Century City attorney retained by process server Wayne Maass after Harris was served with the lawsuit at Kelly's Restaurant in Canyon Country.

Harris, City Manager George Caravalho and the city of Santa Clarita are being sued by former employee Hazel Joanes, who claims racial and sexual discrimination as well as wrongful termination.

The dinner Monday was held by city employees for Harris, whose last day of work is today, before she quits her $107,000-a-year city job to move to Italy.

Told Thursday that the process server has retained an attorney, Harris laughed and responded: ``I don't have any comment.''

She also declined to say whether the incident occurred.

City Attorney Carl Newton said he had only generally heard about the ``alleged incident'' and his office was not taking any action. ``I don't know whether there's any real basis in fact or not,'' Newton said.

Caravalho told his secretary to say he, too, would have no comment.

And none of the city employees contacted by the Daily News on Wednesday and Thursday would talk.

Even the suds-soaked Maass was mum.

``He's retained me, and he's exploring his options,'' Wood said. The options include civil or criminal charges against Harris, Wood said.

Wood and Maass expect to reach a decision within the next couple days.

The vice president at the process serving company where Maass works said the incident is no laughing matter. Violence against process servers is so common that the state has adopted laws toughening the penalties for battery against them.

``I think this is outrageous conduct. I don't think people should be punishing the messenger - the process server,'' said Andy Estin, vice president of Michael Buter Attorney Services and past president of both the National Association of Process Servers and the California Association of Photocopiers and Process Servers.

Estin, who has been called to be an expert witness in trials about violence against process servers, said he would recommend that Maass file charges against Harris.

``If public officials can't set a good example . . . then I don't know who can,'' he said.

Estin said Maass took notes indicating Harris dumped a full glass of beer over the process server. Estin said he was also told that Harris laughed after emptying her glass.

City officials said Wednesday that the suit filed by Joanes, who was a solid waste coordinator for the city, is without merit. Joanes claims she was harassed after she insisted that Harris was allowing the city's trash haulers to charge residents and businesses excessive rates.

City officials notified Joanes on June 20 that she was dismissed after eight months on leave.

Damages sought are not specified in the suit, but are above $50,000, said Samuel Wells, Joanes' attorney. Wells declined to identify any specific illness Joanes had that prevented her from working at the city. ``I've been advised it's stress related,'' he said.

Harris was named in an anonymous letter mailed to the city in December charging that two female managers were incompetent and unwilling to promote women.

Wells said Joanes did not have any responsibility for the anonymous letter, which raised issues similar to ones raised in the lawsuit filed July 8. ``No, she did not,'' Wells said. ``She absolutely did not.''

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Photo: Lynn Harris

``I don't have any comment''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 18, 1997
Words:632
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