Mar 25, 2022 - News

Des Moines settles race discrimination and workers' comp lawsuits

An illustration of the scales of justice.

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Des Moines has settled more than $225,000 worth of legal claims since October, according to documents obtained by Axios through public record requests.

  • Here's a breakdown of the cases that involve settlements of $10,000 or more.

Racial discrimination

Clifford Watkins: $50,000 linked with a lawsuit alleging that he was wrongfully denied promotion and discriminated against based on his race and a physical disability.

  • Watkins, who is Black, alleged that in 2014, coworkers in the city's Public Works Department threw a banana peel at his feet and called him a monkey, according to a lawsuit.
  • The city denied the allegations in its legal response.

Of note: Watkins still works for the city as an equipment operator.

Workers' compensation

Jason Rincon: $20,000 linked with a claim from a 2019 neck injury while working for the city as a sewer cleaning equipment operator, a position he still holds.

  • DSM also paid a nearly $31,000 settlement to Rincon in 2012 for a neck and back injury.

Gordon Trenhaile: $15,000 linked with a claim that he suffered hearing loss while working in street maintenance, which included operating a jackhammer.

  • He retired from the city in 2018.

Juan Sarceno: $18,000 linked with a claim from a 2019 back injury while working as a garbage collector. He is no longer employed with the city.

Accidents involving city vehicles

  • Richie Paz: $75,000 linked with a March 2020 accident involving a DSM police squad car.


Miriam Setaro: $10,500 for a personal injury accident involving a minor on the Union Park rocket slide in September 2018.

  • A gap in the slide exposed screws that injured the minor, according to a lawsuit in the case.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Des Moines stories

No stories could be found

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more