Ousted City Council Member Dominic Caserta is laying the groundwork for lawsuits against the City of Santa Clara and the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD).
Caserta filed a claim with his employer, the SCUSD, in October of last year claiming more than $10,000 in damages. He filed a similar claim with the City of Santa Clara in November of last year, also for more than $10,000 in damages.
Both claims were rejected. Caserta has until April to file a lawsuit against SCUSD and May to file a lawsuit against the City.
If a claim is for more than $10,000, a claimant is only required to say “exceeding $10,000” on both the City and SCUSD claims forms. That means if Caserta does file suit against either agency, it could be for a much larger amount.
In the claim against the SCUSD, the high school civics teacher who is currently on paid administrative leave, says the release of his personnel file to all 1,600 district employees caused, “…irreparable harm to my reputation, my career, and my ability to obtain appropriate future employment. As a result, I am also suffering from severe emotional distress and depression.”
The personnel file was released in May 2018, the same week a former campaign staffer accused Caserta of walking around shirtless in front of campaign volunteers.
The release of the file triggered an immediate response from Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor, who called for other victims to step forward. Rather than face censure by the City Council, Caserta stepped down from his seat on the Council and also suspended his campaign for a seat on the County Board of Supervisors.
As The Weekly reported in May 2018, a number of victims stepped forward at the next City Council Meeting to talk about their interactions with Caserta. The Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office did a thorough investigation of those accusations, but decided not to file criminal charges.
Caserta has maintained his innocence throughout the process. When the accusations were first made, he said in a statement, “I would never do anything to harm the health…of my family, my students, my school district or our city. The allegations against me are false in every sense of the word, yet I have been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion without due process.”
The complaint against the SCUSD names, “Nora Dipko, Gina Perez, and such others as were involved in the illicit mass email, were responsible for the training and supervision of Dipko and Perez, who disseminated the harmful email to others after receiving it, or may have otherwise been involved in creating this personal tragedy.”
The complaint filed against the City names Mayor Gillmor and “other claimants not yet identified.” It says they forced him out of office, created a hostile work environment, and “publically and purposefully humiliated” him.
The City sent a response to Caserta’s claim to The Mlnarik Law Group and attorney Andrew Phillips.
Caserta has used the firm in the past. According to the San Jose Inside, when the accusations of sexual misconduct first came to light, Caserta used $40,000 from his campaign funds to help write a formal denial.