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Fired Long Beach attorney sues city

A former attorney for Long Beach Friday took the first step toward filing a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging city officials fired him because he announced a run for city judge.

Ted Hommel, assistant Long Beach corporation counsel for two years, said Friday that city leaders fired him for political reasons because he announced his challenge of Roy Tepper, the city judge for 27 years. Hommel's attorney filed a notice of claim with the city Friday announcing the lawsuit, which will seek $1 million in addition to punitive damages.

Hommel, a Republican, said the city's Democratic-appointed city manager fired him without cause on Wednesday -- two days after Hommel announced his run against Tepper, a Democrat.

"I hope the people of the city of Long Beach know what is happening and they respond in November," Hommel said. "This is bullying."

City Manager Jack Schnirman confirmed he fired Hommel on Wednesday but declined to elaborate. He would not address Hommel's claim that the firing was politically motivated.

"It would be inappropriate at this time to talk about a personnel matter, especially when there is pending litigation," Schnirman said.

Hommel was a nonunion employee who could be fired at any time, city officials said.

Hommel's attorney, Francis X. McQuade of Long Beach, said he will file the suit in U.S. District Court in Central Islip in a month. Hommel's rights to free expression and equal protection were violated by the firing, he said.

McQuade said he also might file a separate lawsuit alleging violation of state labor law.

He added that Hommel's announcement of his candidacy on Monday and firing on Wednesday were too close together to be coincidental.

"This will not be tolerated," McQuade said. "No one can tell me that his announcing his candidacy and them canning him are not related."

Michael Zapson, the city Democratic chairman, called the lawsuit "frivolous" and said it was ironic that McQuade, who heads a local civic group called Long Beach Patriots Tea Party, is filing a lawsuit to protect a "patronage job."

Hommel made $60,000 annually and was one of three assistant attorneys, city officials said. He said he also served as a deputy Nassau County attorney in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

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