The City of Oakdale has entered into a “separation agreement” with former Public Works Supervisor Mark Ozbirn, who had a pending lawsuit with the city from 2015.
City Attorney Tom Hallinan announced on Tuesday, Jan. 19 that the city will pay Ozbirn $120,000 and in return the action he had against them will be dropped.
The lawsuit stems back to April 2013 when just a few short months after settling a hostile workplace lawsuit with Ozbirn resulting from him defending the city’s only African-American worker in an employment lawsuit, the city placed Ozbirn on administrative leave claiming an investigation then into his work performance.
In February 2013, Oakdale had paid Ozbirn $220,000 to resolve his matter as well as had its own legal costs of over $143,500 defending the suit. The African-American employee also sued Oakdale and settled his lawsuit in 2011. Those two lawsuits cost the city nearly $800,000 in legal and settlement costs.
To the public’s surprise the legal and settlement costs at that time came out of the city’s special enterprise funds with city officials justifying the pay out from the special account stating the involved employees were public works employees and thus the amounts were allowed to be taken from those accounts.
In an October 2013 interview about this action, Ozbirn claimed the personnel investigation against him by the city was retaliatory for the 2011 lawsuit and also his disagreement with City Manager Bryan Whitemyer on public works operational issues. Ozbirn claimed the fallout occurred when the city installed a water supply line for the River Community Church and Ozbirn questioned the authorization.
Ozbirn, who had been with the city since 1988, was promoted to the utilities and streets supervisor position in 2003. Records show that the city terminated him in late 2014.
Ozbirn filed a wrongful termination suit against the city in January 2015.
City records show Ozbirn had a yearly base salary of $58,823. The settlement equates to basically two years pay.
Whitemyer said the funds for the 2016 settlement will come from the city’s Employment Risk Management Pool it shares with the Central San Joaquin Valley Risk Management Authority.
With the action behind him, Ozbirn, 55, is now eligible for retirement benefits through the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS).