ATWATER -- Former code enforcement officer Mike Teater, who was fired in May on allegations of sexual harassment, is one step closer to suing the city over his termination after hiring an attorney recently.
Teater, who adamantly denies any sexual harassment, hired Houston-based attorney Michael R. Casaretto a few weeks ago. No complaint has been filed, but Teater said he plans to sue the city in state and federal court.
"I am definitely looking forward to the steps that the attorney and I take," Teater said. "We're just looking at our different avenues right now."
Teater said all the city has against him is an unsubstantiated complaint from a female city employee.
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"I believe the evidence speaks for itself," he said.
Neither City Manager Kathy Kivley nor City Attorney Jose Sanchez returned calls to the Sun-Star seeking comment. Other city officials were on furlough Friday.
Kivley had previously declined to comment on the situation, citing personnel reasons.
The city's investigation report said a city employee had accused Teater, 51, of making suggestive comments toward her and showing her a condom.
Teater said it was the woman who was bringing up sexual topics and that he never showed her a condom.
The complaints arose about the same time Teater started his website, www.insideatwatercity.info.
Teater started the site Feb. 16, according to billing information from GoDaddy.com Inc. Much of the controversy included in the city's report involves dates that immediately follow the launch of his website.
When a report card showed up on the website rating city officials, Teater thinks one employee filed the sexual harassment charge because the report card gave a bad grade to her husband, who also works for the city.
"When the report card came out on Feb. 16, her complaint came three hours later, and then I was placed on administrative leave that same day," Teater said.
Teater had been an Atwater code enforcement officer for 10 years, but he'd worked for the city for 16 years and had been reprimanded twice, he said. Neither incident involved sexual harassment, but they were included in the city's report about the sexual harassment complaint, leading Teater to believe city officials tried to dig up everything they could to make him look bad.
Casaretto wasn't willing to go into details about the case, saying he's still investigating the circumstances around Teater's dismissal.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.