By Shawn Raymundo
The city of San Clemente is facing the threat of a new lawsuit from James Makshanoff, the city’s former chief executive, who is raising claims of breach of contract, wrongful termination and retaliation.
According to a letter obtained by the San Clemente Times dated Aug. 18, attorneys representing the former city manager sought to meet with the city’s legal team and hold good faith talks in an attempt to reach a settlement agreement before filing formal litigation.
Requests seeking comment from Lawrence Lennemann, Makshanoff’s attorney, had not been returned as of this posting.
City Attorney Scott Smith declined to comment on the matter.
It’s unclear whether a meeting between the two parties has been scheduled.
Acting Mayor Laura Ferguson had made the contents of the letter public during the most recent city council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 1. However, while attempting to disclose the information from the letter, she had been cut off from speaking on the matter by her fellow councilmembers.
“We can’t be talking about this,” Councilmember Gene James said, interrupting Ferguson’s announcement.
Councilmember Kathy Ward requested a vote be taken on whether to publicly announce the details of Makshanoff’s letter.
Ferguson asked Smith to weigh in on the discussion, stating that the city has made previous announcements related to lawsuits filed by former employees—namely Margaret Hamer, who has an age discrimination suit against the city.
Smith said he didn’t recall that happening, adding that “this type of matter is handled by your insurance defense, and they asked that we not discuss them publicly, so I strongly ask that you heed that advice.”
Ferguson, who tried to reason that the letter is public information and open to public disclosure, stated that she’s “committed to the highest level of transparency.” However, noting that the majority of her colleagues didn’t want to address the letter in public, she agreed to move on to other matters of the meeting that night.
The claim that Makshanoff was wrongfully terminated marks a major turn in the narrative surrounding his departure this past winter, when he tendered his resignation and announced that it “was not an easy decision for me.”
Makshanoff had resigned with the city in mid-December, officially stepping down from his post on Jan. 17. In his resignation letter, Makshanoff, who started with the city in September 2014, said he was “grateful to San Clemente for the opportunity given (to) me.”
“I thank you for entrusting with me the position of City Manager for San Clemente,” Makshanoff had wrote. “San Clemente is an outstanding community with great residents and unequaled staff that are dedicated to making San Clemente a great city.”
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.