The Daily News, November 23, 1998
CITY HALL HIT FOR 500G IN BIAS LAWSUIT
By JOE CALDERONE
The Giuliani administration has agreed to pay $500,000 to a former aide to Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinariwho claimed he was fired for speaking out against racial bias in Molinari's office.
The payment settles a lawsuit the aide brought against Molinari and the city alleging the borough president violated his right to free speech and wrongfully fired him.
Molinari dismissed the aide, Ray Hagemann, in 1994 after Hagemann charged Molinari's chief of staff and director of contracts both exhibited "racially insensitive attitudes" toward a black coach who ran a basketball program in Stapleton.
Hagemann had come to the defense of coach Ed Watkins after Molinari's office cut funding to his 400-member youth program.
Watkins had complained about a number of run-ins he said he had with Molinari staffers when he went to Borough Hall to try to save his funding.
Molinari chief of staff Marilyn Blohm allegedly told Molinari's receptionist that she "did not want 'the big black guy' [Watkins] in the reception area when Molinari was receiving visitors," court documents show.
Another time, Watkins showed up for an appointment with Molinari's contracts director, was kept waiting and then escorted out. Watkins claimed his ejection was racially motivated.
Hagemann, a top investigator on Molinari's staff, looked into Watkin's claims and concluded he had been treated unfairly.Hagemann called on the other staffers in Molinari's office to apologize and he filed a formal complaint.
But Molinari said there was no evidence of racial insensitivity, fired Hagemann for bringing the charges and then lambastedHagemann on television. Molinari's chief of investigations, Bill Franz, and chief of administration, Jack O'Hara, backedHagemann and resigned.
Hagemann's attorney, Richard Emery, filed a federal lawsuit alleging Hagemann was fired in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment right to speak out against racial bias.
Manhattan Federal Judge Nina Gershon ruled there was enough evidence to go to trial.
"No reasonable public official could have thought that . . . he . . . was entitled to retaliate against Hagemann," Gershonruled.
Hagemann co-counsel Andrew Celli Jr. called Hagemann "a hero. He spoke out against what he perceived as racism . . . and was punished."
Molinari did not return a call. His spokesman, Chris Kelly, said he didn't know about the settlement.
Lorna Bade Goodman, a spokeswoman for the city's corporation counsel, said the city settled with "no admission of liability . . . . We settled because we didn't want to take a chance with a jury."