By Eric Nakano
Hector Kistemann, the former director of Parks and Recreation, has filed a lawsuit against the city of San Dimas. In the complaint, Kistemann claims he was forced to resign from his position, was subjected to severe emotional distress and had private conversations secretly tape-recorded without his permission.
Kistemann, who joined city staff in 2018, seeks unspecified damages including attorney’s fees. Kistemann claims he has suffered emotional distress, invasion of privacy, and losses to his retirement pension plan.
Ronald Vera, who represents Kistemann, filed the lawsuit on Sept. 3 and an amended complaint on Oct. 7 with the Los Angeles County Superior Court. A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 20, 2022, at Pomona Courthouse South.
According to the suit, Kistemann took the Parks and Recreation job after leaving a comparable job in Santa Monica because he lived nearby and viewed the position as a stepping stone to his career goal of becoming a city manager.
Between Aug. 13, 2018 and Oct. 14, 2020, Kistemann claims he received positive reviews and a raise based on his performance. On Oct. 14, 2020, Kistemann was put on paid administrative leave and escorted out of City Hall. The lawsuit also alleges Brad McKinney, who served as the interim city manager at the time, declined to provide an explanation or documentation, even though Kistemann requested it.
The lawsuit states that during his leave, Kistemann’s wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor. While seeking treatment, Kistemann claims the city informed him that his medical insurance had been terminated, then later apologized and said it was a mistake.
Kistemann claims this caused him and his family severe emotional distress, which was compounded when the city demanded on Feb. 9 that Kistemann attend a meeting at City Hall on Feb. 10. Kistemann refused because he was scheduled to accompany his wife to a medical appointment, prompting him to resign rather than face insubordination charges, the lawsuit explains.
The complaint also states Kistemann believes he was removed from his position due to his insistence that proper and legal business practices be adhered to by all employees in his department. In response, he alleges unnamed city employees conspired to undermine his responsibilities and created an intolerable environment leading to his resignation.
Additionally, Kistemann alleges he learned in February that some employees had secretly taped and recorded his conversations with fellow employees, family and/or personal associates without his knowledge or permission. His complaint states the city knew about such recordings and may have encouraged or participated in it.
The lawsuit is the latest of several personnel issues in San Dimas involving city management. Former City Manager Ken Duran was placed on administrative leave on May 5, 2020, before his resignation on May 22, 2020. Meanwhile, Parks and Recreation Manager Timothy Pagano was placed on paid administrative leave on Oct. 19, 2020 until his voluntary resignation on Aug. 31, 2021, according to documents requested by San Dimas Community Post and released by the city.
In September, Kistemann’s attorney Ronald Vera wrote in an email reply to SDCP, “It may be better if we wait (to comment) until the new complaint is filed.” SDCP reached out again and did not hear back from Kistemann or Vera in time for publication.
City Manager Chris Constantin wrote in an email reply to SDCP, “Cities do not tend to provide interviews on matters of ongoing personnel or litigation matters, as such, we will not be able to meet with you or discuss this matter.”
In a separate email reply to SDCP, City Attorney Jeff Malawy wrote, “This lawsuit is covered by the City’s insurance carrier, and therefore the carrier has assigned its own attorney to handle the case for the City. That attorney is Jeff Thompson of Declues, Burkett, & Thompson.”
SDCP also reached out for comment but did not hear back from Thompson or Assistant City Manager Brad McKinney.
Disclaimer: Isabel Ebiner, managing editor for the San Dimas Community Post and daughter-in-law of San Dimas City Councilmember John Ebiner, edited this story for AP Style.
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