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Retired San Diego City Clerk accused of racial discrimination

Lawsuit filed in December claims Elizabeth Maland created a "hostile work environment."

A lawsuit filed against the city of San Diego claims the now-retired, long-time city clerk discriminated against non-White and non-Hispanic employees. 

The lawsuit, filed in December of 2022, claims the city knew about the allegations against Elizabeth Maland, but did nothing.

"The environment felt very toxic. I felt that I was being talked to and bullied," said Tridae Hughes, one of four plaintiffs who is now suing the city. 

Hughes said she started working in the clerk's office in 2004. She said she left her position in 2021 because she felt the environment was taking a toll on her mental health.

"I do feel there’s some bias there," she said. "I felt that it went on for so long that it was no longer paid attention to."

The three other plaintiffs still work at the clerk's office. 

According to the lawsuit, they claim Maland made demeaning remarks to non-White and non-Hispanic employees, such as "I own you." They also claim she openly stated she does not like to promote older employees, and refused to let them get the training they needed to move up.

Maland just retired in January after 17 years as city clerk. She received glowing remarks from council members regarding her retirement.

However, the plaintiffs say their experience working for her was a nightmare. 

Hughes said she has a Master's Degree in Public Administration and that she's the only one in the department with the Certified Municipal Clerk designation. She said no matter what she did, she kept getting passed over for promotions.

She said what was so frustrating is she was often in charge of training other people to be her supervisor.

"I think the city has talked quite a bit about diversity, equity, and how they don’t tolerate discrimination of any sort," she said. "In fact, the city clerk signs off on the Equal Employment Opportunity policy every year. And it’s all talk and it’s time for some real action."

Maland vehemently denies the allegations. CBS 8 received the following statement: 

My plan was always to retire in early 2023. Many people know that my mom's health situation has become almost unbearable and will require my involvement. However, the baseless lawsuit filed in December by folks I have worked with for years was just the breaking point for me. I cannot talk about the lawsuit since it is ongoing litigation but the accusations within the publicly filed complaint are so repugnant and just antithetical to what I stand for that it was a blow to my health. I had to choose which immensely stressful situation to focus on - my mom or the lawsuit. I just can't handle both on top of everything else I have endured these past years - my father’s passing in 2020, two other major family illnesses (one involving my daughter) and my mother’s spiral into Alzheimer’s. So I am putting my affairs in order here in SD - making arrangements so I can transition back east for a bit. I hope that my decades-long record of public service and the professional and compassionate way I comported myself during that time will speak for me in my absence. 

The San Diego City Attorney's Office said it does not comment on pending litigation. A court date is set for June.

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