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Geoff Dolan files lawsuit against city

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Geoff Dolan

Geoff Dolan

Geoff Dolan, former Manhattan Beach city manager of 15 years, filed a lawsuit against the city of Manhattan Beach for breach of contract and invasion of privacy rights based on the city’s disclosure of records that Dolan argues were confidential. Dolan contends that the public release of the records caused him humiliation and has prevented him from obtaining employment.

Dolan also filed a suit against former city attorney Robert Wadden for professional negligence.

The lawsuit was filed Oct. 28, two months after the city rejected Dolan’s $2 million claim for damages, which he filed in May.

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In the suit, Dolan argues that the city breached his resignation and release agreement, which was created on Dec. 13, 2009, after former mayor Portia Cohen received an anonymous letter the previous month that accused Dolan of sexual harassment at a staff retreat in Pismo Beach. Dolan offered his resignation in exchange for severance pay and confidentiality, according to the suit, as the contents of the letter could potentially damage his reputation and prevent him from getting another job.

The resignation agreement states that “Dolan and the City agree not to disparage each other in any fashion either in response to any inquiries or otherwise. The parties agree that to the extent permitted by law this Agreement and its contents shall remain confidential.”

The agreement goes on to state that regarding any inquires the city receives based on Dolan’s past employment history, the city will only disclose: “dates of employment, position(s) held, and salary at the time of separation (if requested), that the separation was mutually agreed upon by both parties, that Dolan resigned to pursue other endeavors, and that the City Council is appreciative of his contributions to the community.”

The city believes it acted appropriately in the disclosure of the records, said City Attorney Roxanne Diaz. “We’re committed to being transparent to the public and we’re going to defend that position in the lawsuit.”

The existence of the anonymous letter was made public while Wadden was defending the city in litigation filed by open government activist, Richard McKee. McKee sued the city for violating the Brown Act by not providing appropriate public notice about a closed-session, City Council meeting to discuss Dolan’s departure. As part of a settlement with McKee, the anonymous letter was made public.

Wadden was not immediately available for comment.

Dolan argues that the contents of the anonymous letter are “completely unreliable third party hearsay” and that the city did not conduct an investigation regarding the allegations in the letter.

Diaz said the city did conduct an investigation.

Dolan demands a jury trial, according to the suit.

Three other claims have been filed against the city in recent months. Wadden filed a $1.5 million claim against the city in September for age discrimination, breach of contract, defamation and interference with economic opportunity. Two weeks ago, former Manhattan Beach police officers Eric Eccles and Kristopher Thompson, who were fired in March for their alleged involvement in an off-duty traffic collision, each filed a $10.3 million claim for damages against the city.

Diaz said the city wants to move forward. “We’re just looking forward to putting the past behind us and moving forward.”

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