Martin M. Horowitz

2012-2016 Litigation Against Harbor District


  • Attorney Martin M. Horowitz made two unsubstantiated claims against the Harbor District, one in 2014 and another in 2016. In 2015 the District agreed to a sizable payment to the past Finance Director on the day she submitted her resignation.
  • Three Captains filed a lawsuit against the District in 2015 and dropped the suit in 2016. Three Captains was ordered to pay the Harbor District’s legal fees.

2016 - Horowitz & Rubinoff Demand for Grindy Payment

Seven months after accepting Mr. Grindy’s resignation, the Harbor District received a “demand” letter from attorney Martin M. Horowitz. In the February 18, 2016 letter Mr. Horowitz stated, “Mr. Grindy is willing to execute a release of all claims arising from his employment relationship in exchange for a reasonable severance package.” The letter also stated that Mr. Grindy intends on filing a formal claim in the event the District does not contact him by March 4, 2016.

On February 25, 2016 Harbor District counsel declined Mr. Horowitz’ invitation to explore an “informal” payment agreement to Mr. Grindy.

On April 8, 2016 the Harbor District received a tort claim from Horowitz & Rubinoff seeking an unspecified monetary payment.

A tort claim is not a lawsuit. At this time Mr. Grindy has not filed a lawsuit against the District. It appears that Mr. Grindy, like Ms. Galarza, is seeking a settlement payment from the District without filing a lawsuit. The difference being that Mr. Grindy no longer works for the District — he resigned to take a new job in 2015. 

Baseless Allegations

Mr. Grindy’s claim against the District suggests he’s entitled to a monetary settlement because he was not offered the permanent General Manager position. However there's nothing in his offer letter, his employment agreement, or in any documents related to making him the Acting GM, which indicates that he would get the permanent GM position.

In April 2012 Mr. Grindy began work as Harbor Master at Pillar Point Harbor and Oyster Point Marina.

At the September 4, 2014 Board meeting, the District’s General Manager Peter Grenell announced his retirement. In October 2014 Mr. Grindy was promoted to Acting General Manager. Mr. Grenell's last day was Dec. 31, 2014. 

On January 7, 2015 the Harbor Commission hired a consultant to conduct a national search for a permanent General Manager and an ad-hoc committee was formed to review resumes and conduct interviews. Mr. Grindy was eligible to apply for the permanent GM position but declined to apply.

In February 2015 Mr. Grindy sent a letter to the board requesting that he return to his former position as Harbor Master. In response the search committee comprised of Commissioners David and Mattusch refocused their search on finding an interim GM.

In May 2015 an interim GM was hired, the committee resumed the search for a permanent GM and Mr. Grindy returned to his position as Harbor Master per his request.

The claim is filled with baseless allegations; for example Mr. Grindy implies that I expected an immediate response to an email sent at 1:00am. Yet he provides no evidence to support this illogical assumption.

The term “Brown Act” appears 13 times in the claim. Each Brown Act allegation is unsubstantiated and no evidence of any violations is provided.

The claim discloses confidential testimony Mr. Grindy says he provided to the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury in 2014.

“In or about Feb. 2014, CLAIMANT disclosed to the San Mateo County Grand Jury that Commissioner Brennan made numerous statements in violation of the Brown Act. Commissioner Brennan had knowledge of these Grand Jury proceedings and the CLAIMANT believes that a grand juror who was a crony of Ms. Brennan disclosed to her the substance of his complaint.”  

Mr. Grindy’s Brown Act violation allegations are untrue and the allegation that a “crony” disclosed Grand Jury testimony is untrue.

It’s my understanding that Grand Jury interviews are strictly confidential. The San Mateo Civil Grand Jury website states the following, “By law it is a misdemeanor to violate the secrecy of the Grand Jury room. A Grand Juror must not confide any information concerning testimony of witnesses or action of the jury even to a spouse or close friend. "Leaks" concerning Grand Jury proceedings inevitably will impair or even destroy the effectiveness of Grand Jury efforts.”

Last week I asked an investigator with the SMC District Attorney's office for clarification on the law because it appeared Mr. Grindy's tort claim may have violated the secrecy of Grand Jury proceedings. The investigator pointed me to the California Grand Jury System Guide, page 40, “Compliance with confidentiality by witnesses is largely unenforceable, although a breach could lead to a contempt of court citation. Grand jurors must always keep their oath of confidentiality.”

Mr. Grindy's untrue allegations and demands for public funds exemplify the District’s past management problems. A pattern of attacks on my credibility were first initiated by past General Manager Peter Grenell. For over 17 years a culture of hostility flowed down the chain of command. Today, the District’s culture has shifted in a positive direction and General Manager Steve McGrath is building a cohesive management team focused on accountability.

2015 - Three Captains Sea Products Lawsuit

On Dec 17, 2015, the District prevailed in its Anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss one of the Plaintiff’s two causes of action. San Mateo County Superior Judge George A. Miram ordered Three Captains to pay the Harbor District  $38,000 in legal fees for the District's Anti-SLAPP motion.

Feb 25, 2016, Three Captains dropped their lawsuit against the Harbor District by formally dismissing their writ petition. This on top of winning the anti-SLAPP motion and $38,000 in attorney’s fees was good news for the Harbor District.

2014 - Horowitz & Rubinoff Demand for Galarza Payment

The District’s Finance Director Debra Galarza and her attorney Martin M. Horowitz made a groundless, unsubstantiated complaint against the Harbor District in October 2014.

Ms. Galarza never filed a lawsuit against the Harbor District.

On September 4, 2015, Ms. Galarza signed a $295,000 settlement agreement drafted by the Harbor District’s employment counsel, and resigned from the District. This sizable payment in exchange for Galarza’s resignation was approved in closed session on a 4-0 vote by Commissioners: Pietro Parravano, Robert Bernardo, Tom Mattusch, and Nicole David. Commissioner Brennan did not attend the closed session meeting per a recommendation by the District’s employment counsel.

Settlement decisions set precedent. An unintended consequence might result in other employees making groundless complaints with the expectation of six-figure payouts.

It appears that the past Finance Director and the past Harbor Master structured their claims against the District in a similar way.