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CITY SETTLES WITH EX-WORKER FORMER ENGINEER WHO FILED SUIT TO GET $330,000.

Byline: Angela M. Lemire Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA - Former public works engineer Hazel Joanes will receive a $330,000 settlement package - and a letter of reference - after dropping a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city.

According to settlement terms released Friday, Joanes, whose last known address was in Valencia, will get $200,000 for workers' compensation reimbursement and $130,000 for civil claims. The agreement awards no punitive damages or legal fees.

Samuel J. Wells, Joanes' Los Angeles-based attorney, did not return calls for comment Friday.

City Attorney Carl Newton, of the firm Burke, Williams and Sorenson, described the settlement as a compromise that avoided a potentially costly trial before a jury.

``I'm not sure you can classify it as a win for anybody,'' Newton said.

The city settled on an amount far less than Joanes initially sought, Newton said, noting that negotiations at one point reached amounts as high as $800,000.

The city attorney who handled the case, Tim Davis, was unavailable for further comment.

Dismissal-of-action papers were filed Wednesday in Superior Court, after attorneys agreed to a ``global settlement'' that covered both unlawful termination charges and workers' compensation claims, Newton said.

The final agreement will not require the Santa Clarita City Council's ratification, because it previously granted negotiating powers to City Manager George Caravalho, Newton said.

Joanes, who worked as the city's solid waste coordinator from 1989 to 1997, had sued the city for events that led to her dismissal from her $80,000-per-year position in 1997, claiming that Santa Clarita officials harassed her for speaking out against waste-hauling rates she disputed.

She named the city, former public works director Lynn Harris and Caravalho as defendants in the wrongful termination and harassment suit, claiming that after she second-guessed fee structures for the yard- trimming recycling program in 1996, their reprimands for insubordination caused her to fear for her job, spiraled her into a deep depression and made it unbearable to return to work.

Joanes took a six-month paid sick leave and was fired two months after the leave expired, when she did not return to work. Joanes did not appeal or fight the termination, Wells said in a previous interview.

Joanes named Caravalho in the lawsuit, according to court documents, because he referred her to the Personnel Department when she approached him about work-related disputes and verbal reprimands she had experienced with her immediate supervisor, Harris.

Joanes' claim was not focused on the termination, but a climate that, she said, caused her to become depressed and made it necessary for her to take a leave of absence, Wells had said. Her argument was based on a civil rights federal statute that protects public employees from retaliation when speaking out in the public interest, he said.

Her case against the city initially was dismissed last February for its legal foundation, which argued for claims of wrongful termination; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and claims of discrimination based on gender, race and natural origin, as well as two whistle-blower claims.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 8, 2000
Words:501
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