San Diego

East County Councilman Claims Discrimination From Colleagues

An East County politician claims he's a victim of discrimination by two city council colleagues.

In a complaint to the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing,  El Cajon City Councilman Ben Kalasho said Mayor Bill Wells and Councilman Gary Kendrick insulted him, with racial stereotypes.    

The mayor told NBC 7 Investigates he never has, and never would, make racist comments about anyone.

Wells and Kendrick both said their reputations have been harmed, and the city’s money wasted, defending against what they insist are baseless accusations.

NBC 7 Investigates has learned the state dismissed Kalasho’s complaint last week.

"The whole thing was a frivolous complaint, right from the very beginning," Wells said.

Kalasho is an Iraqi immigrant. He claims Wells and Kendrick called him a “camel," a "foreigner” and asked, “Does Ben even know the Pledge of Allegiance?"

Wells said he has never used that type of language in any setting, public or private. “And I think it's very reckless for somebody in a public office to just throw out (allegations) like that, that are completely false, to gain some kind of political advantage,” Wells said.

In the city’s 41-page response to Kalasho's complaint, Councilman Kendrick also insisted "I don't use language or words such as (Kalasho) outlined in the complaint, and have never used such language."

Wells and Kendrick are also angry it cost El Cajon taxpayers $3,400 in legal fees to respond to Kalasho's complaint.

The mayor also noted Kalasho filed his complaint just days after the city council threatened to censure him for violating a ban on texting during public meetings.

Kalasho has a history of confrontation, having filed several lawsuits and harassment claims. He’s also been a defendant in other legal actions.

Wells said Kalasho relishes his image as a disrupter.

"And it's really the voter's choice, if they want to put up with that or not,” Wells said. “I mean, once somebody's elected, we have no say in the matter."

Though the state dismissed Kalasho’s complaint, he can still file a civil lawsuit against his colleagues and the city.

Kalasho did not return phone messages seeking his comment for this story.

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