By Ken Stone
In one day last month, Mickey Kasparian settled the two remaining lawsuits against him — one by a woman accusing the San Diego labor leader of sexual assault and another contending she was fired from her union job as punishment for speaking out on behalf of other accusers.The lawsuits by Melody Godinez and Anabel Arauz were dismissed Feb. 20 and Feb. 21 in San Diego Superior Court, but Dan Gilleon, attorney for both, said they were settled the same day.
Gilleon, who also settled with Kasparian on behalf of Isabel Vasquez and Sandy Naranjo in January, said he couldn’t share details of the deals.
But in the Godinez case, about a county employee who accused Kasparian of groping her and urging her to take part in a Hilton San Diego Bayfront sex foursome, Gilleon said he did what was in the best interests of his client.
Gilleon said he recently settled a rape case involving another woman “where the cops were investigating it, and we settled for $1.3 million.”At a December hearing, another Godinez attorney said the District Attorney’s Office was investigating her accusations — a contention never confirmed by the office or San Diego police.
But Friday, Gilleon said the DA would likely not follow through.
“When you have cases like Melody’s where she doesn’t come forward for a while. They knew each other. There was alcohol involved — all those are factors that cut against taking the case,” Gilleon said in a phone interview. “When you add in that the victim took money, suddenly you’ve armed the defense attorney with a lot.”
A settlement with the plaintiff is alone “enough to destroy a case” for prosecutors, he said.
Reached by text, Kasparian said: “I can’t make any comments regarding the resolution/dismissal.”
But despite his categorical denials of any misconduct, Kasparian still faces judgment by 14,000 workers represented by UFCW Local 135 at a union election expected this year.
Asked when the election will be held, the longtime union president called the question “a membership internal matter.”
Arauz, the former Local 135 worker who eventually landed a job at another labor union, told Times of San Diego that members are organizing to vote him out “in a few months.”
She declined to talk about her settlement, but has been active in ongoing protests against Kasparian, who was removed as leader of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council by the AFL-CIO but started his own umbrella group called the San Diego Family Workers Council.
Kasparian in December resigned from the San Diego County Democratic Party Central Committee, where he had considerable financial and other clout, but he attended the recent state party convention in San Diego.
UFCW Local 135 member Chris Lopez isn’t satisfied with the settlements.
“Mickey Kasparian needs to resign for the good of the labor movement and for our upcoming contract negotiations in 2019,” said Lopez, a Vons worker who was threatened with legal action over “false and defamatory [email] messages to officers, employees and members of various UFCW Locals.”
Lopez said: “We can’t have a union president represent us in the public eye when he is accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, gender discrimination, and other violations of human dignity by four Hispanic women.”
Despite the allegations, Kasparian’s union has boasted of progress on labor contracts. On Feb. 22, two days after the lawsuit settlements, Viejas Casino members of his union ratified a four-year agreement.
“This is the second tentative contract agreement that UFCW Local 135 has finalized in less than a week,” said the Local 135 website, noting an agreement with Keil’s Food Stores.
Still, Lopez called the Kasparian publicity “unacceptable” and also said he was concerned about the possibility union dues were being used to pay settlement costs.
He said in a Facebook chat: “If [he] denied everything, why settle?”
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