The owner of one of San Diego County's largest towing companies says Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas prohibited him from employing Middle Eastern workers in the city, calling them "terrorists" and demanding that his employees not have beards, wear deodorant, and speak english.
Nash Habib, owner of Angelo's Towing and affiliated companies, made those claims in a newly filed lawsuit against the city, Mayor Salas, and other employees.
Habib is an Iraqi national, by way of Greece, came to San Diego County in 2002.
Within five years, as reported in a 2015 article by Voice of San Diego, Habib started his own towing company. And despite criminal and some financial problems, turned the company into of the county's largest.
One of the ways Habib rose to the top of San Diego's towing world was by contracting with local city governments.
In May of 2016 the City of Chula Vista announced its prior contract with a towing service had ended and new companies were invited to submit proposals to take over.
Instead of awarding the contract to one company the city opted to hire seven different companies and rotate them throughout the year, this to avoid any potential litigation.
But in order to qualify for the contract there were certain terms the companies had to observe.
According to the lawsuit filed by Habib one of those terms to satisfy was to employ only white and Hispanic drivers.
Habib claims that during a 2016 meeting with Mayor Salas, he was told that drivers must live in Chula Vista and be Hispanic or Caucasian.
Reads the lawsuit, "Mayor Salas told him to make sure that there are no "Middle Easterns" working on this contract; she remarked upon their "bad accent," advising that people "will think they are terrorists". She also said that Alexandra should not employ black people to work on this contract either. Mayor Salas stated that, if Alexandra were to be awarded a City tow contract, Mr. Habib's employees must dress "normally," like him, should not be allowed to have long beards or headscarves, must use deodorant, must speak English, and must not speak a foreign language in front of Chula Vista tow customers."
The lawsuit alleges that city attorney Glenn Googins reiterated those alleged requirements at a follow-up meeting.
In response Habib hired nine new employees. He was one of seven towing companies to get awarded the contract.
On July 4, 2017 several of Habib's employees called in sick to work. He had to pull workers from other cities to fill in. Among them were those of Arab descent.
Nearly two months later the city terminated its contract with Angelo's Towing.
Habib went to the city to find out why, however, he or his attorneys were ever given a reason.
Habib says the city's wrongful termination has cost him millions in lost revenue and $300,000 needed to meet the terms of the contract.
The City of Chula Vista is fighting back against the allegations from Habib.
In a Monday, March 12 email Senior Assistant City Attorney Bart Miesfeld dismissed the lawsuit and condemned what he said is a frivolous attempt to try and win a court settlement.
"The general policy of the City is not to comment on the specifics of pending litigation," wrote Miesfeld. "However, the outrageous personal allegations against City officials made by Plaintiff, Nashwan Habib, and his lawyers, warrants a brief response.
"The Mayor and the City Attorney categorically deny making any statements to Mr. Habib regarding the racial composition of his workforce, or any other inappropriate matter. Such allegations are completely fabricated. The Plaintiff and his lawyers are clearly attempting to use these inflammatory allegations as a tactic to extract a settlement in their lawsuit against the City regarding the City’s termination of Mr. Habib’s towing contract. In addition to vigorously defending itself against this lawsuit, the City is also considering an appropriate legal action in response.
"When reasonable claims and issues are raised with the City, the City has a history of fairly evaluating such claims, and responding accordingly, always endeavoring to act in the best interests of its citizens. Fabricated claims of the type presented by Mr. Habib and his lawyers will not be given any weight in this evaluation."
A call to Mr. Habib at one of Angelo's Towing facilities was not returned.