Ex-City Attorney Sues Milpitas

Milpitas’ former city attorney has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the city for what he calls a wrongful, retaliatory termination.

Last summer, the City Council axed Mike Ogaz, ostensibly to save money by outsourcing the city attorney’s entire department. But the timing was suspect, as Ogaz had recently called for an investigation into allegations that City Manager Tom Williams engaged in unethical and discriminatory conduct.

The allegations arose in April 2015, when then-planning director Steve McHarris filed a personnel complaint against Williams accusing him of racism, age discrimination, defamation and unethical conduct with developers. Because the complaint followed a slew of others, in addition to several high-level employee departures, Ogaz advised the council to investigate.

Ogaz told Mayor Jose Estevez about the allegations and scheduled a special council meeting to address the matter. A day later, according to the complaint, Williams threatened to have Ogaz disbarred and tried to fire McHarris, who had already accepted a job with the city of San Jose.

Councilwoman Debbie Indihar Giordano—the other defendant named in the case—“immediately retaliated” by adding an agenda item to evaluate Ogaz’s performance, according to the suit. She said the move stemmed from budgetary concerns. But in comments to San Jose Inside that week, Giordano admitted that she had concerns about “due process” and the way Ogaz was handling the McHarris complaint.

At no point before Ogaz’s firing did the city manager or the council raise concerns about the city attorney’s budget, per the complaint. In fact, Ogaz submitted a preliminary budget in January last year that sought to add a deputy city attorney position. At the time, Williams supported the proposal.

After the McHarris complaint, however, Giordano pushed to form a subcommittee to evaluate the financial impact of in-house versus outside counsel. Despite the apparent conflict of interest, Williams prepared the report on the matter.

Other council members expressed concern about the singular focus on Ogaz’s office. “Yeah, I just want to make sure that we’re not just picking on them,” Vice Mayor Carmen Montano said during a public meeting. “I just want to say that if we’re going to do it for one department, let’s do it for all.”

The lawsuit claims that Williams’ assessment was rife with factual errors and omissions. He allegedly failed to consider factors such as inflation and key comparator cities.

Ogaz claims the city violated whistleblower protection laws by retaliating against him for calling attention to illegal discrimination and other concerns.

“Plaintiff Ogaz’s speech was not purely employer-based speech, but rather an issue of social concern,” the lawsuit states, “that of illegal discrimination and unethical conduct with developers, and accordingly, falls within California’s free speech protections.”

The lawsuit seeks compensation for all legal fees, lost pay and emotional distress. Adam Zapala, an attorney for Ogaz, has already satisfied pre-filing requirements by submitting a government tort claim with the Department of Fair Housing and Employment.

The Ogaz lawsuit follows two age discrimination cases, one filed against the city by an employee and the other by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Lori Casagrande, an office specialist who hired her own attorney to sue the city, dropped her lawsuit and resumed working for the city in January after accepting a six-figure settlement.

The city’s former human resources chief, Carmen Valdez, has also filed a complaint through the EEOC alleging retaliation. She says Williams placed her on leave just days before her scheduled retirement last year, potentially threatening her pension and benefits.

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

4 Comments

  1. What a whiner. Boo hoo. Somebody did you wrong. How soon you forget when you and Gloria Anaya laughed all the way to the ground floor of the Superior Court in San Jose. How soon you forget altering court documents, withholding court documents and perjuring yourself at least 24 times. It was so funny to you two. Now you’ve got exactly what you deserve. You’re as corrupt as a summer day is long. I know from personal experience. Because of you, Anaya, and Williams, I will someday lose my house that was fully paid for. I’m now $85,000 dollars in debt that I will never pay off in my lifetime. And yet, I’ve committed NO CRIME. Perhaps you could file a lawsuit against me for slander. Then you can tell the Superior Court judge and 12 jurors why you withheld CIVIL LAWSUIT NOTICE (ATTACHMENT CV-5012), from my copy of your phony complaint. To the people who don’t know what CV-5012 is, by state law it is the first page of a civil lawsuit. It tells the defendant that they have 30 days to file an appeal to the court if they don’t agree with the complaint. Strange I never got one, isn’t lt? The parties go to arbitration to seek a solution. Only if a solution is not reached, does the case actually go to trial. I appeared in court after 3 months, exactly as MY instructions told me. I asked for and was granted a 3 month extension because I had no attorney. Strange that you and Anaya discussed this case with the judge and came to a judgment against me. It’s called EX PARTE COMMUNICATION and is a FELONY. And knowing that I’m a disabled veteran, I didn’t have $5000 for an attorney. And knowing that corruption at Milpitas City Hall is just a way of doing business, you two had every reason to laugh, knowing full well that no one would listen to me. Just before the judge rendered a verdict, your friend the judge asked me if I had anything to say. The ONLY TWO WORDS I gave in my entire defense was “They Lied”. She didn’t even have the courtesy to ask why I didn’t file an appeal. But I guess she already knew, didn’t she?
    If you can’t even file a simple civil case without screwing it up, who the hell do you think you are, filing a lawsuit for anything? You can screw over others and laugh about it, but become so offended when someone does it to you.
    You’re a disgrace. What do you have to be proud of? You did make National news challenging a mans plastic 99% sign. The ACLU put you straight and took $20,000 of the citizens money. How about illegally hiding millions of dollars of Redevelopment Funds. When one council member threatened the life of another, you did nothing. Tell the people of Milpitas how you spent more than $23,000 of their money illegally trying to evict me from my home. Not to mention the complaint I filed against you with the California State Bar Association. The only future job I hope for you is making California vehicle license plates.
    Now I’ll just sit back and wait for your few loyal followers to start their continuing harassment against me.

  2. George Lund here. I’ve got to be quick. Just had a visit from Code Enforcement Officer KEVIN BARANDES. Actually POLICE OFFICER KEVIN BARANDES. Last week he declared all 3 of my cars non-operative. Two cars are parked in my driveway since 2001. I have demonstrated their operation every year since then, sometimes twice a year. Last week he wanted me to start them for the 19th time. One wouldn’t start(battery terminal dirty. The second wouldn’t start(no gas). Problems solved. Both running this morning.These two are registered PNO (planned non-operation). They are legally registered but must remain on private property. I’ve successfully demonstrated their operation 18 times in the past. My 68 Mustang is parked in the street. He didn’t even ask me to start it. Just said it didn’t run.
    When he arrived, I complained about the felony animal abuse behind BIG LOTS. It seems someone named Ed at city hall ordered the property owners to enclose the shed with a chain link fence to prevent access to the feral cat colony living there because of ‘cat issues’. No explanation given. The new on-site Property Manager (maintenance man) was threatened with citations of up to $500 if he allowed anyone to feed the cats. He was told to throw away their food, water, dishes and wooden hand made shelters. This started in December 2014. I feed the cats late at night, but early the next day, their food, water, and dishes are in the dumpster. Practically every day. POLICE OFFICER KEVIN BARANDES says it is legal. City ordinance says any person caring for feral cats is LEGALY RESPONSIBLE FOR PROVIDING FOOD, WATER, AND SHELTER ON A DAILY BASIS. California Penal Code Sec. 597a and 597d state that any person who intentionally deprives any animal of food, water, shelter (when needed), or medical care is guilty of FELONY ANIMAL ABUSE and is punishable by up to 4 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $20,000. Even the FBI, as of Jan. 1 has listed animal abuse as a class 4 felony. A class 4 felony includes bank robbery, kidnapping and murder.
    After I spoke to Police Officer Kevin Barandes, his partner (woman, long black hair, no name given) said “They’re feral cats. they can eat mice. I took out my video camera on a tripod and was going to record the situation. Police Officer Barandes asked me what I was doing. I told him I was going to place the video on YOUTUBE. He got angry and said he was done trying to work with me and he was going back to his office and get a warrant. He refused to say what kind of warrant. He just said he was going to be back with a warrant. I’ve committed no crime, and he never inspected any of my cars. Maybe a warrant to impound my cars? That would be Grand Theft, Auto. Arrest Warrant? For What Crime? Search Warrant? He just walked through my house 3 days earlier.
    In my previous post, (see above), I told you I have proof of corruption at city hall by Gloria Anaya, Mike Ogaz, and Tom Williams. In the last sentence, I said I was going to wait for the harassment to begin. It has. I told all of them to file a lawsuit against me for slander if they were so offended. Then we could go to trial with 12 jurors to decided the merits of the case. They could not alter documents as they did previously. They could not withhold court documents as they have done in the past. If they want to perjure themselves (LIE), that’s up to them. They can’t sit down with the judge and tell the judge what verdict they want. (Ex Parte Communication, a felony offense). My evidence will prove them wrong.
    So is this just harassment from the last member of the trio? I suspect City Manager Tom Williams is giving the marching orders. So ‘fess up, Tom Williams, What is the big “cat issue” that is so serious that you have to abuse innocent ferals. What could be so serious that you would take away food and water from a nursing mother cat and at least three 2 week old kittens. We can all sleep easy tonight, knowing that you’re protecting us common folk from these man eating kittens. Just the sound of purring and the fearful meow brings terror to the hearts of many.
    Or Mister Williams, is this just a new way of harassment. Tell me, how many other property owners were ordered to stop feeding ferals. I know of many caregivers. None were threatened. Are you going to pass a new law in Milpitas that feeding feral cats is a crime. Obviously, It’s already in place. Several weeks ago, I mistakenly told Police Officer Kevin Barandes that I feed feral cats along parts of Penitencia Creek.(ABEL ST.) Without missing a beat, he said he would get a list of ALL property owners (Including Santa Clara Valley Water Control District. What? No Elmwood County Jail?) He was going to send them notices to put up NO TRESSPASSING signs. That way I could be arrested for feeding cats. Three days later he showed me the list of 7 property owners. So now we have city employees telling property owners what they can and can’t do with their own property? After all, Police Officer Kevin Barandes said he doesn’t like feral cats.
    So, if you are one of those people who feeds that little stray you see in the bushes in the morning, or if you’re someone who took on the challenge that God gave you, and feed whole colonies, bless you. Thousands of people donate their time and money, asking for nothing in return, to trap these cats and have them cared for in what is called TNR, TRAP/NEUTER/RETURN. Feral cats are spayed or neutered. They will never again produce kittens. They get a physical exam, rabies shots, treated for fleas, and finally, their left ear is notched, where a small V shape is cut from their ear, or tipped, where a small section of the tip of their ear is removed. After 1-3 days recovery, the are returned to their colony. Because they never reproduce, over time, the colonies get smaller. Qualified veterinarians give their time for free on a regular basis. If you have a stray or a whole colony, contact a shelter or a cat rescue group to get help. Just remember, this is for feral cats only. Your pet cat has to go to your own vet. You can also ask about discount programs.
    I spent close to $5000 dollars to fix ferals until I found out rescue groups did it for free.
    What I’m about to say is difficult, I’m a 69 year old disabled Viet Nam veteran. I have issues. I suffer from extreme depression. Mental illness? You decide. PTSD? Maybe. I spent 16 straight months in ‘Nam. Or Maybe Dec. 19,1967. I died in a traffic accident. Revived in the ambulance but died again during surgery. Placed on a gurney for the trip to the morgue. Navy corpsman saw my hand jerking and I was back in surgery again. I suffered massive injuries, including a brain concussion. I was in a coma for a week. But the fantastic doctors at Naval Hospital, Camp Pendleton pulled me through. Or maybe it was the most recent incident when a neighbor (close friend of Anaya) poisoned 31 animals, including 13 neighborhood feral cats I was caring for. I complained to Anaya and she threatened me with a citation for my trash can being visible if I didn’t shut up. Definitely not Oprah or Ellen treatment here.
    I’m not looking to be a martyr, but if some jerk at city hall has me arrested for ANY charge, then I’ll go. The publicity will make it all over California when I explain FELONY ANIMAL ABUSE BY MILPITAS CITY OFFICIALS.
    Anyway, If you’re concerned about the abuse of cats by the people at city hall, give them a call. Please. I can’t do it alone. Police Officer Kevin Barandes already told me he has the authority to place me on a 72 hour Mental Evaluation hold. Maybe that was the original plan. Milpitas has a way of causing a situation and then blaming the victim.
    Call Jose Esteves and ask him what is going on. OK. He’s just a figurehead for smiling and photos at every social event. But try. Call Tom Williams. He runs City Hall. He can hire or fire at will, though not intelligently, as we’ve seen over the lawsuits filed against him. Who else would do his bidding without question if they didn’t fear for their job? Or call POLICE OFFICER KEVIN BARANDES of CODE ENFORCEMENT. At the moment, he’s the one most vocal about the city’s right to abuse feral cats. The one who appears to be most responsible for this situation is this mysterious guy named Ed. He drives a white city sedan with the words CODE ENFORCEMENT on the sides. He often parks in front of the Serra Theaters or behind BIG LOTS.
    Before I go, I’ll mention again how I suffer depression. Whatever the cause, it’s difficult to describe. I just know that the time I spend with cats is very comforting to me. You’ve probably all heard about people with emotional or mental problems taking comfort with COMPANION ANIMALS. Most often are veterans, but the list is endless, All religions, races, genders, ages. Any kind of animal. Dogs, cats, rabbits. That companion animal is the one with you always. The only one who gives you a purpose in life. That’s the way it is with my cats. Late at night, with no one around, I could never describe the comfort I get when this little ball of fur curls up in my arms and sleeps for three hours. My feet are asleep, my legs are sore and my arms are numb. But knowing that she feels safe and comfortable in my arms only wants me to hold her as long as possible, knowing she’s helping me more than I’m helping her.
    Please call them. We don’t need people like this working at city hall, but we have them for now. Tell them that animal abuse is a crime, not matter how important they think they are.
    The property owner is 200SerraWay LLC. They have an office in Fremont. (check the internet)
    The mailing address is 200 Serra Way Suite #20
    Keep in mind that the man who dumps the cats food and water is the same one who picks up the mail at Serra Center.
    Thank You to all the caring people I know will call the City Hall and demand justice for even feral cats.