Fired city worker to sue San Jose mayor
A former city employee claims San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan and his chief of staff declined to give her a chance to defend herself and damaged her reputation after accusing her of leaking information. File photo.

    A former executive team member in San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan’s office plans to sue the city, claiming she was fired after being wrongfully accused of leaking confidential information.

    Stacey Katz Brown claims Mahan and his chief of staff, Jim Reed, declined to give her a chance to defend herself and damaged her reputation in the city and Silicon Valley, according to a claim she filed with the city in June.

    “We’re going to get to the bottom of this,” Jim McManis, an attorney representing Brown, told San José Spotlight. “She feels terrible. She was falsely accused of something,”

    Brown was hired by Mahan at the start of the year to help develop a city budget that reflected his priorities, as well as to craft performance metrics for accountability. McManis said Brown was “honored and excited” to be offered the role.

    Her first day of work was Jan. 1, but by Jan. 7, she was placed on administrative leave and soon fired.

    Brown’s claim said Reed discovered on Jan. 5 that Mahan’s opponent in the mayor’s race, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, had somehow found out about Mahan’s planned choice for vice mayor, Rosemary Kamei.

    Two days later, Reed called Brown and accused her of leaking the information about the vice mayor selection, which Brown “immediately and unequivocally denied.”

    Reed told Brown she would be placed on administrative leave and disconnected from city servers, and though Brown tried to appeal to Mahan the same day, she was rebuffed.

    “Brown sought to clear her name, and to focus on budget related issues,” her claim said. On Jan. 8, Mahan told Brown he would “be deferring to Reed’s ‘judgment,’ and he refused to have any further conversation.”

    Brown’s claim said the “false and defamatory” statement that she leaked information “was spread around city hall, and the Silicon Valley political community, by Mahan, Reed, and others,” and led to her termination. Their actions caused her economic and reputational damages and emotional distress, her claim said.

    Mahan and Reed declined to comment for this story, citing the pending litigation against them. City Attorney Nora Frimann rejected Brown’s claim in a July 21 response letter.

    “(Brown) wants vindication. They basically sullied her reputation and we’re going to get that back for her, that’s for sure,” McManis said.

    While the claim said Reed felt the leak of information was “significant,” McManis said he feels the whole issue was “silly politics” to begin with.

    “These people on the council, they think they’re very important, and they don’t understand in the greater scheme of things, they’re very unimportant,” McManis said.

    In the wake of the accusations against her, Brown was contacted by reporters asking if the accusations were true, and also received concerned calls from former colleagues, her claim said. Brown previously served as chief of staff for District 4 Councilmember David Cohen from January 2021 until December 2022.

    McManis, on behalf of Brown, also filed a lawsuit against San Jose on Wednesday, arguing the city has violated the California Public Records Act by serially extending its own deadline to respond to a records request submitted by Brown in March.

    Brown’s record request focuses on a series of communications between Mahan, Reed and other members of the mayor’s office team during the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023. The city has provided only two documents in 129 days since the request was submitted, a timeframe McManis said flies in the face of state mandates.

    McManis said he plans to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city on Brown’s behalf soon, and he wants to depose Mahan and Reed.

    “Because I want to give them an opportunity for their day in court. They didn’t give one to my client, but I think it’s fair that they should explain their actions,” McManis said. “We’re going to find out exactly what was behind Reed’s move and why Mahan was so indifferent to his staff person.”

    Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.

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