Ousted building boss alleges corrupt county management.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Bridge burning may violate county code, but for the county’s former director of building services, it’s laying the groundwork for a possible lawsuit.
Tim McCormick, who was terminated in April, is lashing back at the county with a claim alleging wrongful termination, age discrimination and defamation – as well as a dash of racism.
According to the Sept. 30 claim, McCormick has suffered financial harm, a damaged professional reputation and “mental anguish” from what he views as unfair treatment by several of his former bosses: Gene Rogers, interim head of the county Resources Management Agency; County Administrative Officer Lew Bauman; and County Supervisors Dave Potter and Lou Calcagno.
The claim alleges that Potter directed McCormick to waive health and safety requirements related to county construction codes, “admitt[ing] constructing such violations himself for several years as a contractor.”
Potter counters: “I certainly wouldn’t go around saying I did a bunch of unpermitted construction projects. That’s ridiculous.”
The claim also targets Bauman for allegedly directing McCormick to cancel public nuisance hearings required by county code. Bauman declined to comment: “Any claim against the county could be potential litigation.”
Calcagno, according to the claim, allegedly directed McCormick to “cancel code enforcement efforts against Caucasian citizens selected for special treatment while concentrating efforts on Hispanic persons of the north county.”
Calcagno says he’s never given McCormick direction on code enforcement. “I think that’s probably misstated,” he says with a chuckle. “I got along well with Tim. [But] when people get laid off, they’re looking for something.”
McCormick claims he identified more than $1 million in unnecessary Resources Management Agency overhead and called the county out for failing to collect $750,000 in development-related costs, instead subsidizing them with the county road fund.
He also alleges Bauman improperly asked him about his age and Rogers demanded he sign a settlement agreement “under threat of immediate termination.” Rogers declined to comment.
McCormick claims he wasn’t given a chance to present his side before being placed on leave. He alleges the Board of Supervisors violated the Brown Act by hearing complaints against him in closed session, without giving him written notice or the option of an open-session hearing.
Rogers declined to explain why McCormick was fired, citing personnel confidentiality. The timing, however, suggests a connection with public anger over what some viewed as McCormick’s inappropriate chumminess with the developer of an assisted-living project in Carmel Valley.
On March 9, the county Planning Commission voted 5-3 to scrap certain conditions of approval, including graywater and rainwater catchment systems, for the Cottages of Carmel. The next day, an opponent of the project wrote an email to Bauman, alleging McCormick was “backslapping, congratulating, and practically hugging [attorney] Tony Lombardo and [developer] Don Houpt on their win.”
The county put McCormick on paid administrative leave six days later and fired him April 15. But Rogers told the Weekly the termination was not related to the activist’s email.
McCormick, who moved to Moreno Valley, says his supervisors never mentioned the Cottages of Carmel controversy when they took action against him. If the county rejects his claim, he says, he’ll decide whether to take it to court.