The city of San Diego violated a confidentiality clause in a secret $100,000 settlement agreement with Susan Bray, a jury determined Friday, but the former city planner was awarded only $28,150--just over 1% of the amount that she had first sought.
“I think it’s the right result with an inadequate amount,” said Frank Rogozienski, the attorney who has represented Bray since she filed a sexual harassment claim against former Planning Director Robert Spaulding two years ago.
After deliberating just over one day, a panel of nine women and two men decided that elected city officials passed some information to reporters, thus violating the confidential agreement.
“The City Council as well as the mayor gave out information that was part of the agreement, which they weren’t supposed to do,” jury foreman Nicholas Carrigan said.
However, in a loss to Bray that may have cost her thousands of dollars, the city did not commit an “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” according the verdict.
“We didn’t feel the city did anything intentionally against Susan Bray,” Carrigan said.
Bray, who has avoided the media throughout the trial, left the downtown federal courthouse through a side exit.
“I assume she’ll try to recover, put her life back together,” Rogozienski said.
Michael Weaver, the attorney at the private law firm hired by the city to defend itself against lawsuits filed by both Bray and Spaulding, beamed after the verdict was announced.
“When you whittle it down to a $28,000 verdict that is a fraction of the settlement demands in this case, you have to feel pretty good about the whole thing,” Weaver said.
“I feel I would have been much happier if she got zero,” he said. “I would have been much happier if there had been no finding of breach of contract.”
Evidence presented during the 16-day trial ranged from the minute details of how city government operates to expert psychiatric testimony dealing with Bray’s apparent long-term emotional problems.
Bray’s lawsuit originally sought monetary damages for sexual harassment. However, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Edward J. Schwartz threw out this part of the suit halfway through the trial.
The lawsuit is the result of a sexual harassment claim that Bray filed with the state Department of Fair Employment. Once officials, including former City Manager John Lockwood, became aware of the claim, they met with Bray and negotiated a settlement under which she would voluntarily leave her job.
The agreement gave Bray an initial cash payment of $19,995--only $5 under the threshold that requires City Council approval and the source of much of the controversy in the Bray-Spaulding affair.
Bray also received a commitment that she would be given three years of long-term disability payments that bring her biweekly checks of $1,006 and will continue to do so until March, 1994.
The lawsuit that resulted in Friday’s decision was filed several months after news of the secret settlement became public on May 11, 1991. Bray’s identity was publicized two days later.
Bray will receive her money in a lump sum. Carrigan said the award was designed to provide her with an extra year of disability payments, though the jury questioned the legality of the secretly negotiated contract.
“We feel that, in 2 1/2 years, she should be able to get her life together,” the foreman said.
Bray has the option to appeal the jury decision, but Rogozienski said that decision has not yet been made.
A lawsuit that Spaulding filed alleged legal malpractice in the city attorney’s office, but that claim was dismissed by a Superior Court judge in August. Spaulding is appealing the decision.