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Fired Tacoma economic development chief to get big payout from City Council

Ricardo Noguera was fired in December as the city of Tacoma’s economic development director. On Tuesday the City Council authorized a settlement agreement of $174,000 after he filed a claim against the city following his firing.
Ricardo Noguera was fired in December as the city of Tacoma’s economic development director. On Tuesday the City Council authorized a settlement agreement of $174,000 after he filed a claim against the city following his firing. Courtesy

The Tacoma City Council has authorized paying fired economic development chief Ricardo Noguera $174,000 to settle a claim he filed against the city after he was removed from his post.

As part of the settlement agreement, the city will provide a mutually agreed upon positive reference letter that's expected to be drafted sometime next week, said city attorney Bill Fosbre. Noguera won't receive any medical benefits or other fringe benefits as part of the settlement agreement, Fosbre said.

Efforts to reach Noguera and his attorney on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Councilmen Chris Beale and Justin Camarata both voted no on the resolution Tuesday night. Both said they couldn't comment because the resolution is still technically a matter of pending litigation.

Noguera was fired in December after an investigation found he “created an environment that has left his female staff feeling demeaned, demoralized and unwelcomed.” In response, Noguera signaled in a claim filed with the city that he intended to sue and alleged that City Manager Elizabeth Pauli treated him and other people of color unfairly.

In the course of the investigation, several women complained of Noguera referring to them as "pretty girls," according to one report to the city manager. Another employee said Noguera twice said she was not as pretty as her coworkers. Several said Noguera liked to hug his female employees.

Additionally, two women told investigators they felt they were denied job opportunities because of their gender. One told investigators Noguera “she could never expect to advance within the city due to her being a single mother.” The other said she was denied because Noguera told her “men find her intimidating.”

While Pauli fired Noguera from his position as director of the Community and Economic Development department, she offered him another post where he wouldn't be in a supervisory role, The News Tribune reported at the time.

Under that arrangement, Noguera, as the city’s new “chief development officer,” would have been paid for three months at a rate equivalent to $141,000 a year, down from his director’s pay of $168,896 a year. The city also offered a one-time payment of nearly $7,000, according to The News Tribune story. After the three months, Noguera’s job title and duties were to be settled, so his pay might have gone up or down.

In his claim against the city, Noguera said other city department heads who had complaints against them weren't fired because they are white, and he was discriminated against because he is a person of color.

His claim asked the city to settle the matter by paying him $1 million, providing a year of health and dental insurance for him and his family, giving him a good reference and following confidentiality and non-disclosure clauses.

Fosbre said the claim never got to the lawsuit stage. He said the city chose to settle the matter because at this point "it's best for both parties to move on."

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud
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