This blog started a little after Mary started her two blogs. I kinow some of the things she says in her post below to be true, and some other things, I suspect are true. Then again, there is much that she says that I had no previous knowledge of.
Mary Cummins-Cobb vs City of LA, Ed Boks - Animal Advocates, Mary Cummins
This post is to clear up some misconceptions about my lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and Ed Boks. Rick Orlov asked me for a comment for his article but my lawyer told me not to comment. I signed no confidentiality clause even though Ed Boks wanted me to sign one. I can share the settlement agreement. It is not confidential. l received 60% of $130,000 plus an award from the Department. I will reply to all of these allegations in this article. My reply will be in blue.
"$130,000 to settle sex harassment suit against outgoing Animal Services director
By Rick Orlov, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/01/2009 07:49:35 PM PDT
Animal Services Director Ed Boks, seen here in a March 27 file photo, is leaving the post amid controversy. (Tina Burch/Staff Photographer)
In one of the last official actions involving departing Animal Services Director Ed Boks, the City Council on Friday approved paying $130,000 to settle a sexual harassment suit filed by a former worker.
Mary Cumins-Cobb, who worked briefly as an Web master for the city agency, claimed that Boks subjected her to harassment that included lewd comments, inappropriate touching and showing up drunk on her doorstep to ask her for a date, according to court documents.
l offered the City a free website from 2001 to 2005. They never accepted my offer. January 2006 soon after Boks became the new GM the Mayor's office told me to meet with him. l had no idea why l was meeting with him. Boks told me that the Mayor's office said l offered a free new website. He told me to create a new website which l did as a volunteer.
Within five minutes of meeting him Boks was already talking about inappropriate things which l ignored. After only a week he asked me out to dinner even though he had a girlfriend. I ignored his offer hoping he'd get the hint. l was living with my boyfriend which I made sure to mention frequently.
She claimed she was fired for rejecting his advances and that she also lost her job with a private animal foundation because of Boks.
The settlement of the Los Angeles Superior Court suit, filed in 2007, now goes to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for approval
l was fired because l rejected his advances. I was also fired because Boks blamed me for the blogs. l set up his blog and another blog for him. l did not post on his blog. l in fact told him many times not to post what he emailed me yet he did. l did not make all the posts on the other blog. l still have a copy of that blog with the identities of everyone who posted on it. Boks wrote some of the posts, so did people who worked in the Department besides others. When the blogs became a heated issue, Jimmy Blackman from the Mayor's office told Boks to shut it down. Boks never told me that. He continued to write the blogs and encourage people to post on it. l was fired because of the scandal the blogs caused. l was the scapegoat. In fact after I was fired Boks then blamed me for all the mistakes he made, even mistakes he made after l was fired.
PDF: Complaint filed against Los Angeles Animal Services General Manager Ed Boks by Mary K. Cummins-Cobb
Aides said he would have no comment.
Councilman Tony Cardenas, who has criticized Boks for his handling of the department, said he hoped the general manager's recent resignation and the settlement of the suit will enable the city to move forward.
"These issues have become a distraction within Animal Services," Cardenas said. "I hope this will allow the department to refocus its goals and reinvest in its commitment toward becoming a no-kill city," Cardenas said.
Boks said he was advised by the City Attorney's Office to not comment on the case.
Cummins-Cobb said she was prohibited from discussing the suit or the settlement.
My lawyer told me not to comment for this article. l regret not commenting because there are so many errors. Rick Orlov is not to blame for the errors. Rick is a very nice guy and a good writer even though he misspelled my name in the first paragraph.
In court documents, Cummins-Cobb said she began volunteering with the Animal Services Department in 2001 and was hired in March 2006 to help with the department's Web site.
l built the new website for free from January to March. Boks was having me spend many hours a day adding pages, making edits. l finally told him l have to work so l can pay my bills. He then said he would ask the Foundation to pay me. The Department at that time had no webmaster. She went on maternity leave then she quit because she hated the Department and job. She then went to work for Chameleon/Pet Harbor. l think l started getting paid around March 2006.
She said the hourly position was funded through a grant from the Found Animal Foundation, which had employed her in February 2006.
l was hired as an independent contractor for the Found Animals Foundation. Dr. Gary Michelson offered me the job after he saw my presentation at the Ed Boks "Meet and Greet" when l unveiled the new website. Everyone loved the new website.
Soon after being hired by the city, she said in her complaint, Boks began to engage in "inappropriate and unprofessional conduct" with her, including touching, hugging and trying to kiss her.
Although she rebuffed his advances, Cummins-Cobb said she was assured she would not be fired.
But she said the inappropriate behavior continued. Court documents said Boks used vulgar and sexual language, emailed or phoned her up to 20 times a day, frequently asked her out and also showed at her house, uninvited and apparently under the influence of alcohol.
Boks engaged in inappropriate behavior with many, many female rescuers, not just me. l would tell him repeatedly, don't go out with local animal people. He said they were the only women he was meeting even though he had a page on Match.com and a girlfriend in New York. l also told him to stop putting these inappropriate things in writing. Someone could do an info act request and get a copy then he'd be fired. l told him if he was going to write something he didn't want the world to see that he should use the phone instead. He could not stop drunk emailing. l thought he would never fire me because he put the most inappropriate things in writing. lf he were to fire me, of course l'd turn over all the emails, which l ultimately did. Boks admitted to all of his inappropriate acts in email and even apologized, again, in email. He also shared emails from the Mayor's office, City attorney, Bob Ferber, Commissioners, employees, rescuers....
The documents also claim Boks asked Cummins-Cobb to post anonymous blog comments defending him from Internet attacks written by critics. She said her identity was quickly revealed, and that animal activists subsequently spread false rumors about her to city officials.
Among the lies told about her by activists, she said in documents, was "that she was a `911 terrorist,' `a prostitute,' and `a practitioner of squirrel pornography."'
Boks wrote some of the posts, so did others with the Department including Commissioners. The rest is true.
Cummins-Cobb said she was forced to remain inside her house because of the activists and lost her job with the Found Animal Foundation because of Boks. In July 2006, she said she was fired by the city.
Boks continued to harass her, the documents said, calling her up to 10 times a day and asking her for sex, documents said. When she refused, she said, her permit to work as a wildlife rescuer was not renewed.
l did lose my job at the Foundation because of Boks. The blog and Boks became a scandal. The head of the Foundation, Dave didn't like Ed Boks. He knew all about his tricks with the numbers. l didn't yet realize that Boks was failing and euthanasia had increased. Boks had us all fooled into thinking euthanasia was down. l supported him because l thought he was saving animals' lives. l could not have been more wrong. l stopped supporting Boks when l saw the annual numbers. Things had not improved. l shut down the other blog at that time.
Boks did call me repeatedly. He'd call, l wouldn't pick up because l saw it was him and l knew he was drunk, he'd leave a message, instantly call again and again and again. He lived close to me and would just drive over drunk out of his mind in a City vehicle.
My wildlife permit was renewed. The problem was the permit officers insisted on inspecting my house again. They only inspected me the first year. There was no such thing as an annual inspection. The permit officers did not like me because Ed Boks embarrassed them at the Banksy art show. In front of people he called them on not looking at the paint or checking the temperature in the trailer as l had. Boks has very poor people skills. l complained about this new "annual" inspection. Boks did not stop them from inspecting my house. They came to my house and looked at everything except my caging. The caging is the only thing they are supposed to inspect. No one else was inspected annually.
In their written response to her complaint, city officials said Cummins-Cobb was a volunteer and was never paid by the city as an employee. Boks said in his written declaration that the city never submitted invoices to the foundation for her work.
I was never a City employee. Boks sent a request to the Foundation to hire me to work for him. l was told by Dave to do whatever Boks needed. l was also still legally a volunteer for the Department at the same time but that involved work in the shelters.
In his statement he also implied it was not his own decision to let Cummins-Cobb go.
"I was advised in mid-2006 to release Ms. Cummins as a volunteer," he said, without specifying who advised him.
Jimmy Blackman from the Mayor's office told him to fire me. So did the City Attorney. They told him to fire me because of the flak they were getting because of the blogs. lt was basically ADL and three or four mentally ill people who complained about the blogs. The letter the City sent to me said "thanks for all your wonderful help but we no longer need it." Boks didn't even warn me that l was going to get a letter or get fired. He felt bad so he wrote me a letter of recommendation which l will dig up and post. He predated the letter of recommendation. You can tell because the commissioners are different.
Here is the kicker. After l was fired from the Foundation, lost my grant and was fired as a volunteer for the City, Boks accepted all responsibility for my firing in writing and apologized. He told me he would make it up to me. He promised me he would find me a new job with Best Friends. l would be making the same amount of money. He said l would do their website and work for them. He kept saying he just had to get together with me for dinner to go over the details. By then l'd wised up a little so l told him just to hook me up with the job over the phone, no need for dinner. After a month of him begging l agreed to meet for drinks in a very public place. l wore a suit. He showed up tipsy then drank four more drinks. He asked to come over to my place and l said no. He showed up later with a bottle of booze at my door acting totally drunk. My boyfriend was in San Francisco for the weekend. l knew Boks couldn't drive any farther without getting in a major accident so l let him come in and crash on the sofa. l had a fear if he got a DUI, he'd be fired. After he did some crying about how kittens were ruining his numbers he passed out. He woke up late the next morning missing his first few appointments. He later emailed me that he had a great time. He obviously blacked out and remembered nothing but wanted to cover his bases just in case.
Gary Michelson, CEO of the Found Animal Foundation, said in a written court declaration that Cummins-Cobb was fired from the foundation because of the quality of her work and not because of pressure from the city.
"When I saw her work, I was also dissatisfied with the quality of her work," Michelson said in the declaration. "Because of her poor performance, we terminated our relationship with Cummins. No one at the City of Los Angeles influenced or attempted to influence my decision."
Dr. Gary Michelson is a liar. Michelson did not fire me. The head of his Foundation Dave fired me. Dave said he wanted to "take the Foundation in a different direction" which just meant l was fired. He mentioned the blogs and Boks while he fired me. Michelson wasn't even in town when l was fired. Michelson always told me he loved my work. We corresponded back and forth. He told me he didn't even know that l was fired. Then Michelson yelled at Dave for not paying me. He told Dave that he liked my work. He asked Dave why he fired me. Dave told me all of this.
Keep in mind my lawyer Solomon Gresen did a horrible job with my case. He did such a horrible job that l reported him to the bar. Besides many other violations Solomon Gresen never gave me a copy of any document he sent or received. lt turns out he also never read the City's reply to the complaint. He's the type of lawyer who files many lawsuits to try to get a settlement or two. He never read Michelson's statement. lt came up in mediation six months later. The mediator said my boss said he fired me. l called up Dave who was my boss and he said he made no such statement. l thought it was another bluff from the City. First time l saw Michelson's statement was when l asked Rick Orlov for it. BTW the mediator stated that she felt my lawyer committed malpractice.
l was totally shocked when l saw the statement. All the time l was working with the City l was supporting, protecting, defending Michelson and his strange behavior when no one else was. Michelson did indeed promise the Mayor money if he hired Ed Boks. The Mayor's office kept asking me "where's the money?" They said "Michelson is a flake, he promised money, where is it, he's crazy." Boks was saying the same things. Boks even said that he was "strange looking" and "gay." l still defended Michelson because l thought he was saving animals' lives with his Foundation. l thought he truly would make LA "nokill" as he promised. l was again wrong.
After Gary Michelson fired his Foundation Director Dave, Michelson started spreading false rumors about Dave saying he embezzled money from his Foundation. Dave did not embezzle money. Michelson just got buyer's remorse after giving money to Dave for his pet kiosks and microchips. Michelson tried to file a police report with LAPD but they refused to take the report because no crime had been committed. Michelson asked the Mayor's office and Ed Boks to tell LAPD to arrest Dave. They called LAPD who told them there was no crime and Michelson is crazy and a liar. Michelson gave the money to Dave. ln the meantime Gary is telling everyone that Dave will be arrested. l would even tell Michelson where Dave was. Gary asked me to write a statement about Dave and l said yes. l never did write a statement. Also FTR l never signed a confidentiality agreement with Michelson. l was asked but they never gave me one to sign.
Michelson kept libeling, slandering, defaming Dave. Dave finally sued him. Michelson quickly settled. After l saw Michelson's libelous statement about me l contacted the same lawyer so he could sue Michelson. He said Michelson is very mean and nasty. He doesn't want to have to go up against him again. l couldn't find anyone that was willing to go up against Michelson because of his reputation of being very nasty in legal battles.
Boks resigned in April after a turbulent few months in which he faced harsh criticism for his decision to abruptly end a voucher program offering coupons to reduce the cost of spay and neutering pets.
The City Council had authorized the vouchers to help residents comply with a law requiring the sterilizatoin of all pets six months or older - a program advocated by Boks.
Boks was fired. He did not resign. He threatened to sue the City. They decided to make it look like he resigned so he could try to find work somewhere else. His golden handshake was two months worth of salary. He did the same when he was fired/left New York and Arizona. He was basically fired from NY and AZ because of audits which showed poor performance. He was also sued for racial discrimination in NY and lost. Boks even got the Mayor of LA to write a letter saying "thanks for your service" kind of like the one the City wrote to me. FTR Boks wrote and signed my termination letter.
Under pressure from council members and saying he was suffering some health problems, Boks resigned effective June 30.
He is using vacation and medical leave this month and plans to work during June to help in transistion.
Neither Villaraigosa or the Animal Services Commission have released any guidelines on their plan to hire a successor. It has been a difficult post to keep filled. The city has had five directors in the past 10 years.
lt's a very difficult position. l wouldn't wish the GM position on my worst enemy. Dealing with the Union, City red tape, employees, rescuers, volunteers is a very tough job.