Council OKs Award to City Clerk Over Firing : Government: Lee Martinez will receive $215,682. He earlier was cleared of sexual harassment charges and reinstated.

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The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday voted to pay $215,682 to City Clerk Lee Martinez, who charged that he was fired from his job in 1993 after being wrongfully accused of sexually harassing several of his employees.

Martinez said in an interview that the 9-5 council vote to settle his claim was a great relief and provides him with some recompense for the emotional distress he suffered as a result of the sex harassment accusations. Under the settlement, $90,682 is to pay for Martinez’s legal expenses while $125,000 is for damages caused by emotional distress.

In a prepared statement read after the council decision in executive session, council President John Ferraro said it was “most unfortunate that Mr. Martinez was discharged. . . . As it turns out, the charges against him were found to lack merit.


“The council regrets any distress and anguish that Mr. Martinez and his family suffered as a result of what happened to him,” Ferraro’s statement concluded.

Martinez said he just wants “to get on with my life.” He had a storybook career at City Hall--rising from garage attendant to the $118,000-a-year post of city clerk--until one of his clerical employees accused him of sexually accosting her at a Downtown restaurant.

During an investigation of her complaint by the city Personnel Department, several other women in his office accused Martinez of leering at them.

Based on such accusations, then-Mayor Tom Bradley fired Martinez in June, 1993, only days before Bradley’s final term expired. Martinez appealed his dismissal and won reinstatement and back pay from the city Civil Service Commission in January, 1994.

Martinez denied the charges all along, saying at one point that he was too short to have played footsie with his principal accuser under the table at a restaurant as she charged.

There was also testimony in the Civil Service hearings that Martinez could not have ogled some of his female employees as alleged because they worked more than 80 feet from his office.


Martinez blamed Bradley for what happened to him. “There’s no doubt in my mind that these charges were part of a political pay-back,” Martinez said Wednesday.

His trouble with Bradley--who originally appointed him to the clerk’s post--stemmed from a 1991 incident. Martinez refused to allow the mayor to cover up a mistake he had made in signing an ordinance that set the stage for weakening the mayor’s powers. Bradley had intended to veto the ordinance but mistakenly signed it into law.

“I knew he was going to get me when I said I couldn’t let him” have a second chance to veto the law, Martinez said. “He threatened to fire me that very day. It was just a matter of time.”

Martinez, 57, said the ordeal of living with the sex harassment charges was grueling. “The most difficult thing was having to call my daughter up at college and explain what I was being accused of,” said Martinez, who also has a son.

Martinez, who lives in San Marino with his wife, plans to use $125,000 as a trust fund for his children.

After Wednesday’s settlement, only one thing remains to make his life whole again, Martinez said. “I’m still waiting for a call from Tom Bradley, apologizing for what he did. But I don’t think I’m going to get it.”


Times staff writer Jean Merl contributed to this story.