Former lifeguard chief narrows lawsuit against city

Former lifeguard chief narrows lawsuit against city
A lawsuit accuses all five Del Mar City Council members and City Manager Scott Huth of fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, age discrimination and violation of whistleblower laws. Courtesy photo

DEL MAR — Del Mar’s longtime community services director and chief lifeguard, who was fired last summer for alleged workplace misconduct and misuse of public funds, has narrowed his lawsuit.

Pat Vergne voluntarily dismissed his claim of defamation in violation of public policy, resulting in $9,670 being reimbursed to the city for legal fees, said Jeffery Morris, an attorney representing Del Mar. 

An earlier claim of wrongful termination was not included in an amended complaint filed April 27, according to Morris.

A subsequent motion to dismiss several other causes of action and a case management conference is scheduled for Aug. 31, City Attorney Leslie Devaney said at the Aug. 6 City Council meeting.

Vergne has accused all five council members and City Manager Scott Huth of fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, age discrimination and violation of whistleblower laws, Morris said.

Former lifeguard chief Pat Vergne, seen here on Sept. 5 at a “Power to the Tower” fundraiser with former City Councilwoman Lee Haydu, left, and former County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

Additionally, numerous claims of wrongful termination are still pending.

Vergne and his attorney said they preferred not to comment at this time.

Vergne and Liza Rogers, an administrative assistant in the Community Services Department, were accused of waiving or discounting permit fees, submitting false claims for pay and overtime, paying part-time city employee Oscar Rivas as an outside contractor to do work he was doing as part of his regular job and using a city credit card for personal purchases.

Vergne doesn’t deny some of the allegations and said that his supervisors were aware that he adjusted fees for certain activities at city facilities. If the practice was not allowed and he had been questioned about it, he said he would have stopped.

Vergne also admitted he could have been “a little bit more diligent” in authorizing Rogers’ overtime.

Following his Aug. 23, 2017, termination, the city turned the results of a private investigation over to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, which found there was not “proof beyond a reasonable doubt that crimes were committed,” according to Deputy District Attorney Anna Winn from the Regional Fraud Task Force.

Vergne also filed a complaint against Huth claiming harassment and general mistreatment. After a one-month investigation by an independent third party, those claims were determined to be unfounded.

On July 18, Rivas filed a complaint for retaliation and whistleblower protection. Devaney said that is being reviewed and a response should be filed by Aug. 31.

On July 19, Rogers filed a claim for retaliation, age discrimination and failure to prevent discrimination. Devaney said that cause of action had not yet been served but the city will respond after it is received.

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