The ugly legacy of Michael Brooks’ embarrassing tenure on the Kansas City Council continued Thursday.
An ordinance was introduced to put taxpayers on the hook for paying $225,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed against the city by a former aide to Brooks.
The suit came from Tonia Titus “alleging a hostile environment based on her sex, and retaliation,” a city fact sheet said.
Titus claimed that Brooks choked her in his 22nd floor council office last November.
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Brooks, who had served a largely ineffective and often controversial first three-and-a-half years in office, denied any wrongdoing.
But he fortunately resigned effective Jan. 2.
In February, Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd announced that Brooks would not be criminally charged.
However, the lawsuit by Titus has found some important backing at City Hall.
From city documents:
“The Law Department recommends settling the claims of discrimination for $225,000.00, because a jury could believe Ms. Titus was subjected to a hostile work environment caused by her supervisor, an elected City Official, and retaliated against. If so, the City would be subject to emotional damages, punitive damages and attorney’s fees that would likely be greater than the recommended settlement amount.”
Essentially, the city wants to give the money to Titus so she won’t sue and possibly get more money — even though a special prosecutor already has said he couldn’t find enough evidence to file charges against Brooks.
The ordinance is scheduled to be heard by the Finance, Governance and Ethics Committee, likely next week.
City Council members often take the Law Department’s advice in settlement cases like this for a few reasons.
First, it’s not their money; it’s just part of a $1.4 billion budget.
Second, they don’t want to raise legal questions, risk upsetting the plaintiff and lead to a trial they caused, which could turn out to be even more costly to taxpayers.
Titus may deserve the money, which ought to be part of the discussion by the City Council committee.