Controversial Council Vote Pulled Before Elections

By: 
Stephen Downing

On Sept. 7, 2018, the jury in the case of Thomas Gonzales vs. City of Long Beach rejected what Thomas Gonzales’ attorney, Kimberly Lind, described as the city’s retaliatory allegations against him by awarding $436,000 in past economic damages and $300,000 in emotional distress damages. The three-week trial ended a 12-year protracted legal battle in both trial and appellate courts.

The Citizen Police Complaint Commission (CPCC), created by voter referendum to investigate citizen complaints almost three decades ago, employed Gonzales as an investigator.

According to legal documents Gonzales was fired by the City Manager because he resisted pressure to categorize meritorious complaints as “No Further Action” (NFA), a determination utilized by the CPCC staff to “refrain from investigating, circumvent commission review and include citizen complaints in official statistics reported to the City Council, the public and the Department of Justice.”

Lind said, “The city was desperate to hide these misdeeds and engaged in a campaign to tarnish Gonzales’ name and reputation by falsely alleging he violated the City’s code of ethics, ensuring he would never become employed in a similar position again.”

CPCC statistics recently provided to the Beachcomber by CPCC executive director Anitra Dempsey indicate that between January 2014 and October 2018, 951 cases were closed by CPCC staff with 510 or 53.6 percent of the citizen complaints classified as NFA.

In addition to NFA classifications 170 (17.9 percent) of the 951 complaints were classified as either “Other,” “Receive and File, “ or “transferred to another department.

18 (1.9 percent ) of the 951 citizen complaints were classified as Sustained, 72 Exonerated (7.6 percent ), 53 Unfounded (5.6 percent ) and 128 Not Sustained (13.5 percent )

In an early October online publication the Beachcomber reported that City Attorney Charles Parkin had placed a request on the city council’s October 9 consent calendar to authorize the city manager to execute an amendment to an existing contract with an outside law firm for an additional $200,000, for a total not to exceed $515,000 in order to pursue an appeal to the jury verdict.

At that time Lind said, “The attorney’s fees being spent to defend will cost the taxpayer close to the verdict itself.”

At the beginning of the Oct. 9 council meeting a number of community members appeared to protest the City Attorney’s request, among them Long Beach resident Jane Hull, who served on the Gonzales jury as Juror #4.

When the Oct. 9 council meeting opened, Vice Mayor Dee Andrews announced that the controversial agenda item had been withdrawn.

Most attendees then left the meeting. Ms. Hull stayed in spite of the withdraw and waited three hours before she would be allowed to address the council.

When the time for general public comment arrived Ms. Hull told the council: “I have no permission to speak for the other jurors; this is me...We studied the evidence, the evidence was there and we made the right decision. It was a very solid decision. The evidence to me was overwhelming and we all agreed that our decision would be for the plaintiff ... you can say yes, we’ll give the money ... keep this thing (appeal) going. It’s legal, but I will never believe that in this case it is right, because we (the jury) made the right decision.”

On Nov. 13, at the first council meeting following the Nov. 6 election, a renewed but modified request was calendared by the city attorney for “an additional $200,000 for litigation expenses incurred through trial and post-trial motions.” It was listed as Item #3 on the consent calendar. Those who attended the Oct. 9 meeting to protest were not present.

Lind said the City Attorney’s new request was essentially the same as the one on the Oct. 9 consent calendar but “toned down to avoid the attendant community outrage that would follow the more obvious first request.”

“The smart move for the city would be to end this before we file a costs memorandum and an attorney fee motion, which could increase the amount owed by the City to well over a million dollars,” Lind said. The attorney shook her head and went on, “Unfortunately, continuing to fight in this manner only subjects the City to further liability and costs.”

When Mayor Garcia called for approval of the consent calendar, only item #24 was pulled for discussion – a recommendation by the police department to approve an application for an Alcohol Control license.

Item #3 along with 29 other consent calendar items – including three separate requests by the city attorney for the council to approve a cumulative total of $1,335,000 to pay settlement agreements made in three other law suits – was passed by a unanimous 8-0 vote without comment. Councilmember Uranga was absent.

Stephen Downing is a resident of Long Beach and a retired LAPD deputy chief of police.

stephen@beachcomber.news

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Comments

It is time to remove the mayor, city attorney along with the corrupt PD chief and his cowardly staff. Lets take our city back.

Just read that the new LASD elected sheriff is cleaning house! The same thing needs to happen with the LBPD: clean house and fire LUNA and his corrupt staff! LB needs change.

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