By Nolan Madden
The U.S. District Court in Prescott last week formally dismissed a group of lawsuits filed against the City of Holbrook by current and former city workers.
The civil complaints were submitted in three separate cases by Louis Baldonado Jr., Armando Aguilera, Markos Serna, Michael Kennedy, Oscar Chairez and Carlos Jimenez, all of whom worked under the direct supervision of City Manager Ray Alley.
Their claims alleged abuse of power, intentional infliction of emotional distress, pay and racial discrimination, sexual harassment and invasion of privacy against Alley, which Alley says the employees later combined into a single class action suit.
In the lawsuit, workers demanded $10.5 million in monetary damages, with Baldonado suing for $5 million, Aguilera for $1.5 million, and Serna, Kennedy, Chairez and Jimenez for $1 million each.
The case was transferred to U.S. District Court last September after Navajo County Superior Court removed and forwarded the dispute in June 2014.
The city’s litigating risk insurance pool attorney Justin Pierce informed the city of the final ruling.
Alley provided the following statement from Pierce: “This was absolutely the correct decision. I was convinced that the judge would leave some claims hanging out there, but no. He dismissed the entire case and did it with prejudice, meaning the judge sees no way that the plaintiffs could amend their complaints again in order to state a viable claim. It’s over for good. Of course, they can appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but this is a solid decision, so I think an appeal would be extremely weak.”
Alley says he looks forward to continuing to work amicably with the employees.
“I’m going to work with them no matter what. The bottom line is, in my opinion, it was a frivolous lawsuit. I am demanding. I don’t care about race, color, religion or whatever. But I do expect a lot out of my workers, and I expect an honest day’s work out of them. I don’t ask them to do anything that I wouldn’t do,” said the city manager.
“It was the right decision, it relieves us of the burden of the situation.”
Of Baldonado, who was recently transferred to the city’s newly created recreation director position from his former role as water department superintendent, Alley commented, “Louie is still with the city and he’s doing a great job. I think he’s working in a position now that he might realize he’s better suited for, because he is really good at recreation.”
Alley remains supportive of the workers, relating that Aguilera has since retired and that some of the other workers are still employed by the city.
“One now works at the senior citizen’s center, and the others have all moved on: One is a Navajo County deputy, another went to work for BNSF and one is still working for me in the water department. There’s no grief between any of us, just business as usual,” he said.
By Nolan Madden