By George Warren


SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The state attorney general’s office will ask a Sacramento judge on Friday to strike 20 paragraphs that mention racism, sexism, and corruption in a lawsuit against the Department of Water Resources.

The Bay Area law firm seeking more than $100 million in damages from DWR claims a “toxic culture” contributed to the Feb. 2017 failure of the Oroville Dam spillway.

The lawsuit features a photograph of a hangman’s noose an African-American DWR employee says was displayed in a meeting room for up to three months before he took it down himself.

“The focus of the DWR was not on safety,” said Niall McCarthy of the firm Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy. “There was a corrupt culture distracted by sexism and racism and theft.”

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The firm is representing the city of Oroville along with local growers and other businesses and is seeking class-action status for untold other victims of the crisis that led to the Feb. 12 evacuation of nearly 200,000 people below the dam.

In the state’s motion to strike the portions of the complaint addressing the culture of the water agency, the attorney general’s office claims the allegations are “irrelevant.”

But even a federal after-action report found no single root cause of the spillway failure and no single chain of events. The report concluded there were multiple factors including physical, human and organizational.

McCarthy says that’s the argument he’ll present in court Friday morning.

“DWR wants to remove those (allegations) from the complaint. But if they were a cause of the collapse, the jury has every right to hear about them.”

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