A government subcontractor says Lemon Grove city councilmember Jerry Jones retaliated against him for posting negative comments about Jones's politics on his Facebook page.
Marcus Bush, a former consultant for Rick Engineering, has filed a lawsuit against Jones and Lemon Grove city manager Lydia Romero in federal court.
According to the complaint, on July 31 of this year, while using his personal Facebook account, Bush responded to an announcement that James Elia was running for El Cajon City Council. Bush wrote, “Time to usher in a new era of progressives and leave behind the ugly, thinly-veiled racist tendencies of men like Jerry Jones [“JJ”] and Bill Wells. So excited for James’ campaign!”
An hour and a half later, councilmember Jones was busy typing his own message, this one to Lemon Grove city manager Romero, to make her aware that a city subcontractor was speaking out against him.
“I understand that Marcus Bush either worked for or works for Rick Engineering and Mooney," Jones wrote in the email, which was quoted in the lawsuit. "On a post made by Council Member Arambula endorsing James Elia he made some pretty inflammatory remarks concerning myself and Mayor Wells…. If this person is still working in the area I hope he doesn’t not [sic] see any time in Lemon Grove. We need objective professionals that will serve the needs of the people of Lemon Grove. We do not need this kind of poison in our little city.”
Romero soon began contacting managers at Rick Engineering. She first contacted Tim Gabrielson, who worked for Rick Engineering but was based at city hall. According to the lawsuit, Romero told Gabrielson that Bush needed to stop criticizing Jones publicly.
In the following days, word got around. Brian Mooney, a supervisor at Rick Engineering, sent Bush the following text message: “Marcus there is a rumor out there [that] you placed a negative comment about a Lemon Grove councilman on Facebook, do you know anything about it?"
Bush responded: "Yea it was about Jerry Jones and his criticizing my Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher with thinly-veiled racist remarks. I called those remarks exactly that."
Added Bush, "And this is my personal Facebook page [by the way] that has no connection to Rick Engineering. I don't even state that i work on my page."
To which Mooney responded, “Marcus you identify yourself on your LinkedIn as a Rick employee and the councilman is our client so anything you post directly effects this company. I have been notified and all the management by the City Manager. We will discuss this internally and get back with you but I personally believe you went far beyond any civil, meaningful or constructive comments.”
Bush is suing Jones and Romero for retaliating against him for expressing his First Amendment rights.
“I did what I think is right by calling out politicians who reinforce institutional and systemic racism,” said Bush in a statement. "Instead of reaching out to me and asking about my concerns, as any responsible adult would have done, Mr. Jones and Mrs. Romero used their political influence to attack me personally by trying to cut off my ability to provide for my kids and going after my job.”
Jerry Jones said he was not aware of any lawsuit.