Monte Sereno councilmember files for $1 million in discrimination, harassment damages – The Mercury News
Councilmember Rowena Turner is asking the city of Monte Sereno for damages totaling $1 million for alleged harassment and discrimination by former and current councilmembers after she was charged with illegally voting in Oregon.
The Republican councilmember filed the claim with the city in May, stating that “on or about September 2020,” Mayor Javed Ellahie, former councilmembers Marshall Anstandig, Lionel Allan and current councilmember Bryan Mekechuk targeted her in an attempt to remove her from council.
Council discussed the claim during closed session at a June 21 meeting, ultimately voting to reject it because it was “untimely,” Ellahie said after the closed session ended.
The complaint alleges “a conspiracy to attack and defame Ms. Turner based on false claims that she had committed felonies and perjury by violating California and Oregon election law, claims that were demonstrably false and defamatory.”
Turner was convicted in 2021 for voting in both California and Oregon during the November 2018 general election. Election records show Turner cast ballots in both states in more than a dozen elections from 2004 through the 2020 primary election.
Allegations of her voting in two states surfaced in 2020, when voting and election integrity were under intense scrutiny. Turner’s conviction gained public attention in 2022 after Oregon newspaper Grants Pass Daily Courier published a story on her conviction.
Turner said in the complaint that she would pursue further legal action if the issue wasn’t resolved. Turner’s attorney Randal Barnum could not be reached for comment in time for publication.
Barnum argues in the complaint that the “discrimination and harassment” Turner faced was in violation of the city of Monte Sereno’s handbook. Turner and former councilmember Daniel LaBouve filed written complaints in 2020, and Turner’s current complaint states that the city did not do anything in response.
After LaBouve resigned from council in September 2020, Ellahie forwarded LaBouve’s resignation letter to Mekechuk, Anstandig and Allan, to which Anstandig replied, “One down, one to go! Rowena is next!”
In October, Mekechuk sent an email asking Oregon’s Secretary of State to investigate Turner’s voting history, while Ellahie and Councilmember Shawn Leuthold contacted the city attorney, who ultimately recommended against trying to remove Turner from council because it could violate her civil rights.
Council held a public discussion of the allegations against Turner at the Oct. 20, 2021, council meeting, where it was determined no further action could be taken.
The complaint states that Turner, 74, is “actively looking for employment,” but the negative press and attention following her conviction have “ensured no employer will hire her.” She also requests $46,775 to cover her attorney fees.
“These current and former councilmembers continue to harass Ms. Turner,” the complaint reads. “They continue their attempts to discredit, defame, humiliate and embarrass her. They have caused her pain, anguish and great emotional distress. They have attacked her family and attempted to get her husband and son charged with felonies.”
Turner said she was also removed from all her committee assignments and was passed over for appointment as vice mayor.
Turner, Ellahie and Mekechuk declined to comment.