In a new lawsuit, Manuel David Lugo, the former manager at the Mount Hope Cemetery, says his supervisors in the Parks and Recreation Department fired him because of his sexual orientation. But in order to do so, says Lugo, his supervisors were forced to find ways around the accolades and positive job reviews he had received during his eight years on the job.
"Motivated by his sexual orientation and/or because Mr. Lugo wasn’t a ‘team player’ the Parks and Recreation Department wanted Mr. Lugo gone. The problem was Mr. Lugo had a satisfactory record.
"So what did the City do? It made his life miserable. It ignored his pleas for help when one disgruntled co-worker “outed” him to customers and when another threatened him with a gun. And when Mr. Lugo wouldn’t quit, the City based on sham allegations brought a co-worker who had an ax to grind with Mr. Lugo and a superficial, incomplete and misleading fact finding investigation fired Mr. Lugo."
During his eight years of employment, Lugo claims he did more than just take care of the 146-year-old city-owned cemetery, he added new land, oversaw a major remodel, planted trees, implemented water-saving measures that saved the city "hundreds of thousands of dollars," and worked to make the experience easier for families.
But his dedication and hard work caused rifts between him and his co-workers. In 2008, Lugo said he overheard another employee making discriminatory remarks to potential clients. His supervisors refused to investigate. Three years later, one of Lugo's employees threatened to shoot him. Again, his supervisors essentially buried the complaint.
Meanwhile, supervisors allegedly began plotting to get rid of him. They launched investigations into what Lugo claims were unfounded accusations that he tried to profit from selling burial plots, and that he sexually harassed a co-worker. Both investigations showed Lugo was not at fault. Despite the lack of proof, his supervisors fired him.
"In the end, the majority of the accusations against Mr. Lugo were found by the City to be baseless and were dismissed…. The City of San Diego’s decision to terminate Mr. Lugo was after Mr. Lugo brought two claims for discrimination/retaliation in 2010 and 2012, which resulted in a complete lack of complete investigation…. The acts of Defendants and each of them were done with malice, fraud and oppression, and with conscious disregard for the Plaintiff’s rights, and with the intent to
Lugo is suing for loss of wages and other punitive damages.
The city has yet to respond to the lawsuit.