LAWSUIT: Villaraigosa says despite the payout, the case signals city isn’t “an easy mark.” By Rick Orlov STAFF WRITER Defending last week’s settlement of a harassment and hazing case involving a former Los Angeles firefighter, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday said the city sent a message that it would not be an easy mark for payouts. Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles City Council signed off Friday on a $1.49 million payout to former firefighter Tennie Pierce. The deal included $60,000 in back salary that guarantees his pension. It also includes an additional $1 million to his attorneys and city payments of about $1million to the private firm of Jones, Day to investigate the case. But Villaraigosa said he was concerned that if the case went to trial it could have resulted in an even larger payout. “We had two recent trials that cost the city more than $10 million,” Villaraigosa said. “I felt it was in the best interests of the city to settle this now for a reduced amount. I also believe we have shown that the city will vigorously fight on these cases and not be an easy mark.” The controversial case arose after Pierce sued the city for failing to take disciplinary action against co-workers in a Westchester fire station when they put dog food in his spaghetti. Originally, the City Attorney’s Office recommended – and the City Council approved – a $2.7 million payout. But Villaraigosa vetoed that deal. “I vetoed it because I felt there were facts out there that hadn’t been examined,” Villaraigosa said. “And the City Council agreed with me and brought in an outside counsel to examine the case.” At the time, pictures also emerged that showed Pierce engaging in hazing of other workers. Part of his complaint included the failure of department supervisors to take action. The mayor said two mock trials were staged involving evidence in the case. In both instances, the city would have been liable for an even higher payout, he said. Part of the evidence involved audits from Controller Laura Chick detailing the LAFD’s history of harassment and hazing, particularly in cases involving women and minorities. Controversy surrounding the Pierce case resulted in the retirement of former Chief Bill Bamattre and his replacement with Douglas R. Barry. Barry has pledged a zero-tolerance policy on hazing. Nick Velasquez, a spokesman for City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, defended his office’s action in the case. “The facts speak for themselves,” Velasquez said. “The original settlement proposal was going to cost the taxpayers $2.7 million. “The mayor vetoed that proposal. The current settlement – which the mayor supports – will cost the taxpayers $2.84 million.” [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!