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ANOTHER JOB LOST ON CITY ATTORNEY’S STAFF The Oakland city attorney’s chief operating officer has been laid off to help deal with a city shortfall that could reach $46.5 million. Yanie Chaumette’s May 23 departure marks the second time that City Attorney John Russo has had to trim his staff. This winter, Russo laid off five attorneys to shave more than $1 million from his 2003-05 budget. The city crafts two-year budgets. On May 2, the mayor and city manager asked for $200,000 in additional reductions to avoid more red ink. Flat revenues, higher labor costs and the potential loss of vehicle license fees from the state could result in an initial city shortfall ranging from $29.5 million to $46.5 million in 2003-2004 and another $10.8 million deficit in 2004-2005, said Russo’s spokeswoman Karen Boyd. “This was a difficult decision for John personally and professionally,” Boyd said, adding that the layoff was the best way to save money with a relatively small impact to the department’s clients. Russo was in Sacramento on Monday and was unavailable for comment. Russo hired Chaumette shortly after he assumed office in September 2000 as part of an effort to revamp the office and structure it more like a law firm. Chaumette watched over personnel matters, outside counsel contracts, training and development. Before joining the city attorney’s office, Chaumette was an assistant city attorney in Antioch for 12 years. She was both assistant city attorney and personnel director during her last six years in Antioch. Chaumette could not be reached for comment late Monday afternoon. Over the past two years budget woes have forced Russo to cut his staff by 24 percent through layoffs and eliminating vacant posts, Boyd said. With scheduled staff raises included, the city attorney’s budget is now $10.1 million, she said. – Jahna Berry RARE SETTLEMENT IN PLANT-CLOSING CASE NEW YORK — A federal judge has approved a $36 million settlement that — subject to one condition — will require the McDonnell Douglas Corp. to compensate about 1,100 of its former employees for the pensions and other benefits they lost when the company shut down its Tulsa, Okla., plant. The outcome in Millsap v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 94-CV-633-H, represents only the third time that employees have prevailed on a claim that a company violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by closing a plant with the intent to shed employees whose benefit costs were high or who were on the verge of vesting in pensions. The last such case was in 1992, according to a May 28 order entered by U.S. District Judge Sven Erik Holmes of the Northern District of Oklahoma, who presided over the McDonnell Douglas case. Holmes cited the long odds faced by the plaintiffs’ lawyers as one reason they were entitled to their requested fee of $8.75 million, which will be deducted from the settlement. Other reasons were the protracted nature of the litigation (it has been brewing since 1994) and the dedication of the plaintiffs’ lawyers to their clients’ interests. Holmes applauded the plaintiffs’ attorneys for working out a scheme that will compensate workers in proportion to their actual damages, as opposed to the more common pro rata distribution. Holmes found that the plaintiffs’ attorneys had had to overcome constant obstruction by McDonnell Douglas, echoing a 2001 ruling in which he castigated the company for withholding and destroying evidence and punished that conduct by denying the company the right to use the “business judgment rule” as a defense. Holmes went so far in 2001 as to say that “a culture of dishonesty existed at the company.” – The National Law Journal

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