The executive director of Seal Beach's Leisure World retirement community has filed a lawsuit against the Golden Rain Foundation and some of the foundation's directors. The lawsuit comes a year and two days after the executive director was suspended—and claims the suspension was retaliation for complaints about the work environment in Leisure World.
Dan Schaeffer, who was awarded an 18-month contract to administer Leisure World late last year, has accused his employers of slander, creating a hostile work environment and deliberately inflicting emotional distress. According to the complaint, filed on Sept. 28 with the Orange County Superior Court, Schaeffer was suspended last year in retaliation for making complaints about allegedly racist and anti-gay remarks attributed to unspecified Golden Rain Officials.
Asked for comment on Monday, Oct. 15, current Golden Rain Foundation President Tim Bolton had Schaeffer read the following statement to the Sun: "The GRF president will inform you when a response to your question is available. The timing is unknown."
Bolton is not among the defendants named in the lawsuit.
On Tuesday, Oct. 16, Bolton issued a formal statement about the lawsuit. "The Foundation has been named in a lawsuit entitled Daniell Schaeffer, Plaintiff, vs. Golden Rain Foundation. The lawsuit was filed in the Orange County Superior Court on September 28, 2012, bearing case number 30-2012-00601630. The lawsuit contains several employment-related claims, including allegations of wrongful suspension, disability discrimination, harassment, retaliation and defamation. The Foundation has notified its insurance carrier, and is currently working with its employment and corporate attorneys to investigate the allegations and to prepare a defense. Unfortunately, the Board of Directors cannot discuss the case during its investigations, which is necessary to ensure the defendants are legally protected; however any inquiries should be directed to the Foundation’s President, Tim Bolton. "
Schaeffer is seeking unspecified damages. The Sept. 28 complaint makes nine specific charges against the Golden Rain Foundation.
The suit says that a disciplinary suspension imposed on Schaeffer last year was based on an unspecified pretext in retaliation for complaints Schaeffer had made about unspecified members of the board. The complaint said that some Golden Rain board members had said there were “too many Mexicans” employed by Leisure World and that some GRF officials did not want gay seniors to become Leisure World residents.
The complaint says that information in employee files was used to humiliate Golden Rain employees. According to the document, when Schaeffer advised Golden Rain officials against using that information and against making comments that might be considered discriminatory against non-white or gay individuals, Schaeffer was subjected to a hostile work environment that caused him stress.
Schaeffer's complaint also accuses board members of defaming him by accusing him of theft.
The suit specifically names three GRF board members as co-defendants: Bruce Smith, Larry Blake and Michael Supple.
Tax penalty, suspension and contract
Schaeffer has been a controversial figure at Leisure World ever since May 2011, when the Orange County Treasurer/Tax Collector's Office slapped the Golden Rain Foundation with a $272,948.32 penalty for being late in paying the property taxes for 13 of the 16 mutuals that make up Leisure World.
Schaeffer was suspended for unknown reasons in October 2011. A group of Leisure World residents staged a series of protests calling for his dismissal starting on Oct. 11, but the Oct. 12 demonstration went unnoticed as a result of the Salon Meritage shootings on that day. Schaeffer was reinstated on an unknown date that same month.
He was given a new job title, executive director, and an 18-month contract in December 2011. The vote was 11 in favor of the new contract, five opposed and two abstentions. One of the opponents of the contract was GRF board member Supple, one of the individual defendants in the lawsuit. The contract includes an option to renew at the end of the 18-month period.
Leisure World is home to roughly one-third the population of Seal Beach and its geographic territory covers two council districts.