Los Angeles County’s Civil Service Commission says a former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy who arrested actor Mel Gibson for drunk driving should never have been fired and must be given his job back.
The commission agreed with a hearing officer who found the Sheriff’s Department wrongly terminated Deputy James Mee in connection with a 2011 incident in which a drunk driver the deputy had tried to stop crashed into a Santa Clarita gas station. The commission ordered that Mee not face discipline, Luz Delgado, a commission spokesman, told the Los Angeles Times Wednesday.
Mee’s lawyers argued that sheriff’s managers falsely blamed Mee for leaking details of Gibson’s 2006 arrest and the actor’s anti-Semitic tirade to celebrity news site TMZ.com. Mee, his attorneys alleged, was then repeatedly subjected to harassment and unfair discipline, culminating in his firing over the 2011 crash.
Richard A. Shinee, Mee’s attorney, told The Times Thursday that his client was fired after the county paid him $50,000 to settle a lawsuit he brought over his treatment after Gibson’s arrest. Shinee said the commission’s decision means Mee will receive back pay and benefits from the day of his firing in 2012.
The commission’s decision comes after the panel initially decided to overrule the hearing officer’s recommendation and suspend Mee for 30 days. On Wednesday, the commission reversed its decision and agreed with the hearing officer, The Times reported.
The Sheriff’s Department insisted during Mee’s appeal that his termination had nothing to do with Gibson’s arrest. It accused Mee of violating the agency’s rules on pursuits during the June 17, 2011, traffic incident in Santa Clarita.
Mee was following the suspected drunk driver’s Nissan sports car when the vehicle slammed into the Chevron station, seriously injuring the driver and passenger. The department accused Mee of failing to warn dispatchers and other deputies about how serious the fiery crash was and then lying in his report and to investigators by saying he had not been in pursuit of the car.
—City News Service
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