San Bernardino leader did not defame former city manager in Facebook posts, judge rules – San Bernardino Sun

A San Bernardino councilwoman did not break the terms of a $750,000 settlement agreement with former City Manager Andrea Miller when she made comments about Miller’s job performance on Facebook, a San Bernardino County Superior Court judge ruled this month.

In a 2020 lawsuit filed against the city and Councilwoman Sandra Ibarra, Miller claimed Ibarra’s public posts harmed her reputation and were untrue.

And, Miller claimed, those statements broke a provision of the $750,000 settlement agreement, which included a joint statement clarifying the reason Miller was let go in May 2019. The joint statement was to be the only public comment from either side on the case, according to the pact.

In his 29-page summary judgement, however, Judge Michael Sachs ruled that Ibarra’s comments on social media did not breach the contract nor did they constitute defamation.

While the Oct. 10 judgment effectively ends the lawsuit, Miller’s attorney Bradley Gage said this week he and his client “disagree with that ruling and have already started the process of pursuing an appeal.”

In a statement, City Manager Rob Field said the city is “pleased that the judge ruled in our favor and this case did not have to go on any longer.”

Ibarra and a majority of City Council members fired Miller without cause May 29, 2019.

Miller subsequently accused city leaders of retaliating against her for exposing a hostile work environment created by Mayor John Valdivia and his staff, discriminating against her and harassing her for her gender, and failing to take any corrective action to punish those who engaged in such misconduct.

In April 2020, San Bernardino leaders agreed to pay Miller $750,000 to settle the lawsuit.

The joint statement included in the settlement agreement clarified that Miller was let go “because the city wanted to go in a new direction.”

Ibarra that same month responded to a post on Facebook about the matter, writing in part: “The truth always prevails and for what it’s worth, those comments made by the City are false. I stand behind my vote of letting Andrea go, just as I do with others who aren’t performing and aren’t letting the city move forward.”

At the time, Gage called the comments defamatory and “a continuing act of discrimination, harassment and retaliation” on his client’s age, gender and past legal actions against the city.

In his ruling, Sachs contended Ibarra’s statements were spoken in generalities and “were of opinion and not false statements of fact.”

Therefore, he added, they did not show Miller in a false light nor would they be “highly offensive to a reasonable person in Miller’s position.”

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