Merced Rojas, once a handyman on the payroll of the town of Cicero, Illinois, is suing the town's president Larry Dominick for illegally firing him from his post because of his race, and his wife's occupation.
In the lawsuit, Rojas alleges that Dominick described Latinos as “spics,” “wetbacks” and “illegal f***ing immigrants,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. That's a particularly volatile claim in Cicero, an overwhelmingly Latino suburb of Chicago.
The president's lawyer, Craig Tobin, argues that there are no "credible" witnesses who will testify that Dominick made the remarks. Dominick's wife is Latina, Tobin notes, arguing that the president would never use such language.
But the allegations of racial slurring are only a marginal part of Rojas's complaint.
At the heart of the case is the El Dia newspaper, a weekly marketed to Latino readers in the area. That paper is run by the Montes de Oca family, and in part by Ana Maria Montes de Oca-Rojas, the wife of Merced Rojas.
As the Chicago Reader detailed several years ago, El Dia was once very closely aligned with former Cicero president Betty Loren-Maltese, who was later jailed for her role in an insurance scam that robbed the city of around $12 million.
Loren-Maltese was arrested in 2002. A few years later, Dominick took over as town president, and the paper began publishing stories critical of his administration. Before long, Rojas was under investigation for shirking his responsibilities as an employee of the Town of Cicero, and in October of 2006, he was fired.
Rojas claims, based on reported conversations and other evidence, that Dominick had him fired because of the comments made in his wife's paper. Dominick's lawyers claim that he simply wasn't performing, and that he's resorting to claims of racism and political bias as a means of hiding that fact.
This is not the first time Dominick has been sued for alleged misconduct. In 2009, a female town employee filed a federal sexual harassment lawsuit claiming Dominick groped her and made vulgar comments. She was the fourth town employee since 2007 to sue Dominick and the town for harassment.