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EXCLUSIVE: Two More Workers Sue Hawaiian Gardens for Harassment

Hawaiian Gardens Code Enforcement Officer Fred Licon can add another two alleged harassment complaints to his tenure at City Hall.

 

BY BRIAN HEWS • May 15, 2021

Yet another complaint has hit the city of Hawaiian Gardens courtesy of Code Enforcement employee Fred Licon, the latest from two woman who worked for the city for many years, Linda Suniga and Claudia Raya.

Both the named plaintiffs in the complaint allege ongoing “retaliation, intimidation, and harassment” with the two women also filing a whistleblower complaint.

The complaint was filed by the same attorney representing another employee who was allegedly harassed by Licon, Brianna Gonzalez.

 

 

Worker Sues Hawaiian Gardens for Alleged Two Year Harassment by Fred Licon

 

 

Just two weeks ago, Gonzalez filed the complaint suing the city alleging, like Suniga and Raya, that the city did not do enough to protect her from being sexually harassed by Licon.

Gonzalez complaint alleges harassment – quid pro quo, hostile work environment, and failure of the city to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent harassment.

Suniga and Raya’s complaint alleges the same, but then spells out the covert actions of city employees to keep Licon’s harassment secret, “Plaintiffs are further informed and believe that Defendants (employees of the city), acted in concert in furtherance of the interests of each other.’

Suniga and Raya’s complaint alleges that from October 2016 to January 2018, Licon subjected Raya to comments “about her physical appearance, leering, unwanted advances, and other sexual harassing conduct.”

In January 2018, Raya reported Licon to human resources, an investigation ensued with Suniga agreeing to an interview, substantiating Raya’s complaints.

Suniga and Raya described Licon the same way Gonzalez did; the self-declared boss of City Hall whom no one would touch because of his “connections.”

During the investigation, Licon learned that Gonzalez was set to testify as a witness. According to Gonzalez, Licon accosted her outside City Hall trying to intimidate her into false witness.

All woman allege that Licon subsequently interfered in the Raya investigation then “covered-up” the results so he could remain an employee of the city; no further actions were taken against Licon.

Testified and Demoted

The accusations of misusing AFSCME union funds by Licon surfaced in February 2019. The allegations were first reported by HMG-CN who obtained the misuse inquiry from a source.

 

 

Hawaiian Gardens AFSCME 3624 President Fred Licon Accused of Misusing Thousands in Union Funds at Hearing

 

 

Licon was fond of saying he had “pull” with the Moskowitz family, owners of the Gardens Casino, but he didn’t, according to sources close to the family.

The Moskowitz’ gave thousands to the union run by Licon, funds that Licon was accused of misusing and “passing around like candy.”

The fraud accusations were backed up by witnesses and documents, so the AFSCME executives were forced to take over and place the local into receivership.

A receivership is a court-appointed tool that can assist creditors to recover funds and can help troubled companies avoid bankruptcy.

Suniga and Raya were union members and testified to what they saw were violations of local, state, federal and IRS laws in regard to Licon and the union funds.

The lawyers documented the women’s testimony which was given to the city and Licon, with sources telling HMG-CN that the testimonies made Licon “extremely angry.”

Within the next few months, Raya (in July 2020) was moved from her HR position to Public Safety without warning.

In the same manner, Suniga (in September 2020) was “laid off” then assigned a lower position with Licon taking over her job.

Both women received a cut in pay.

Raya was later demoted again and transferred to the Finance Department, given job duties “consistent with a receptionist.“

In October 2020, HMG-CN exclusively obtained the report which found Licon guilty of financial fraud for misusing union funds; he was suspended from the union for four years.

 

 

Hawaiian Gardens Union Members Found Guilty of Financial Fraud, Suspended Four Years

 

 

But somehow City Manager Ernie Hernandez, who recently left for the same position in Lynwood, and HR Manager Patrick Mason, did not fire or suspend Licon, allowing him to retain his lucrative position at City Hall.

According to Transparent California, Licon earned nearly $103,000 as a code enforcement officer in 2019.

Whistleblower

In the complaint, the plaintiffs also contend they were protected under the whistleblower status code after they complained about Licon in 2018.

The move sets the two up for treble (triple) monetary damages under the California Labor Code.

Now Hawaiian Gardens residents can look forward to Licon, Hernandez, Mason, and other city employees, including some elected officials, getting subpoenaed by Greg Smith for depositions.

Read full Suniga/Raya complaint.