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Racial harassment lawsuit costs Modesto nearly $363,000

A lawsuit claims this effigy of a monkey hanging from a noose was displayed in a City of Modesto supervisor’s office in the fall of 2015.
A lawsuit claims this effigy of a monkey hanging from a noose was displayed in a City of Modesto supervisor’s office in the fall of 2015. Patrick Green

It cost Modesto nearly $363,000 to settle a lawsuit in which a waste-water treatment plant operator who is half African-American alleges he was subject to racial harassment and discrimination as well as retaliation when he complained.

Modesto paid Patrick Green $120,000 in exchange for his ending the litigation. The city also spent $242,862 in defense costs, bringing its total cost in the lawsuit to $362,862. And Green, not the city, is responsible for his legal costs.

Modesto says it made a business decision to settle, according to its November settlement agreement with Green.

“The City categorically denies that it has any liability whatsoever toward Green, but has been forced or may be forced to incur significant fees and costs as a result of Green’s lawsuit; therefore, it wishes to avoid incurring any additional litigation expenses,” according to the settlement.

Green alleged in his lawsuit that he was subject to “racial comments, innuendos, insinuations, jokes and songs.” The lawsuit claims an effigy of a monkey hanging from a noose was displayed in a supervisor’s office. The lawsuit was filed in July 2016 in Stanislaus County Superior Court.

The Bee reported in June that the city was willing to pay Green $250,000 to settle, but that was contingent upon Green resigning from his job.

Green, 52, expressed misgivings then about having to resign. He has worked for the city for about eight years. Green earns $63,856 annually, according to the city.

City spokesman Thomas Reeves confirmed Tuesday that Green was allowed to keep his job by accepting the lower settlement.

The agreement essentially says Modesto and Green will not talk about it, and Green will not “make disparaging remarks about the City, nor shall he encourage anyone to make disparaging remarks about the City.”

Green was represented by Modesto attorney David Rancano, who said Tuesday that under the terms of the settlement he could only say “that the matter has been resolved to the parties’ satisfaction.”

Reeves declined to comment further because he said this was a personnel matter.

The Bee learned about the settlement through a Public Records Act request it filed with the city for all payments it had made from July 1 through Dec. 31 to resolve claims, lawsuits and similar matters brought against it. The period covers the first six months of Modesto’s 2018-19 fiscal year.

Including the Green lawsuit, Modesto paid $196,428 to resolve 27 claims, lawsuits and other matters and paid $272,740 in defense costs, for a total of $469,168. City trees and tree limbs falling and smashing onto parked cars, fences, roofs and other property made up nearly half of the matters.

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Kevin Valine covers local government, homelessness and general assignment for The Modesto Bee. He is a graduate of San Jose State University and grew up in San Jose.


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