$1.5M lawsuit accuses California DA of racism against Asian Americans

$1.5M lawsuit accuses California DA of racism against Asian Americans
via ABC7 News Bay Area
Michelle De Pacina
March 7, 2024
Patti Lee, Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price’s former spokesperson, filed a legal claim on Monday, accusing Price of “constantly and openly” making derogatory comments against Asian Americans.
The lawsuit: Lee is seeking a $1.5 million settlement for emotional distress stemming from discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination and failure to pay wages. Lee alleges that Price fostered a culture of anti-Asian bias in the workplace that promoted racist views and hindered transparency with journalists.  
Lee’s claims: Lee, who worked with Price’s administration for about six months in 2023, claims that Price openly referred to her enemies as “the media and the Asians.” Lee portrays herself as a whistleblower, exposing abuses of open records laws after Price barred The Berkeley Scanner reporter Emilie Raguso from a press conference on Nov. 29. She also accuses Price’s staff of attempting to flout public records laws and hide, delete or change records in response to media inquiries.
Price fires Lee: Lee specifically accuses Haaziq Madyun, the office’s communications director and a former TV news reporter, of not being forthcoming with documents and potentially deleting or altering records required to be released under state law. As Lee voiced her concerns to colleagues, she was reportedly handed a termination notice and given eight minutes to clear out her desk on Dec. 12. Lee’s law firm says this swift action was a “textbook case of retaliation,” with no reason provided for her firing.
“The real reason for Ms. Lee’s termination will be plainly evident and intuitive to any jury,” the firm wrote. “We are confident will find that Ms. Lee was terminated as a result of racial discrimination against her protected status as an Asian American and whistleblower retaliation.”
No response from Price: The legal action comes amid a recall effort against Price, who became the county’s first Black woman to hold the position of district attorney. The allegations also coincide with broader challenges facing Oakland, including a surge in crime and the closure of businesses, leading to a decline in the city’s reputation. The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has not yet responded to the claim.
Not the first time: This is not the first time Price has been accused of racism against the Asian American community. In May last year, two Alameda prosecutors resigned over what they viewed as Price’s “inequalities and disparate treatment.” Rebecca Warren, who was a veteran prosecutor who has been with the office for over 17 years, accused Price of being “condescending and disrespectful to the AAPI community” in a letter regarding the death of toddler Jasper Wu, who died from a stray bullet.  
Lee’s law firm has requested a response from the District Attorney’s office by March 11. If no response is received by that deadline, the firm states its intention to proceed with litigation “promptly and without hesitation.”
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