A judge ruled Monday that a Los Angeles police bloodhound handler can take to trial his lawsuit alleging he suffered a backlash for reporting the alleged sexual harassment of one of his three colleagues in the unit by a supervisor.
In denying a motion by the City Attorney’s Office to dismiss Elliot Zibli’s case, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yolando Orozco ruled there were triable issues in the case.
“There are issues as to who knew what and when and it’s really not a situation for me to resolve,” Orozco said.
The judge said she hoped the parties can settle the case.
In its dismissal motion, the City Attorney’s Office maintained the LAPD implemented legitimate measures so that the unit in which Zibli worked could be better managed.
Zibli filed the whistleblower lawsuit in May 2018, saying he was forced to retire earlier than he wanted to because of stress.
Zibli first began working with police dogs in 1998 and became a bloodhound handler in 2015 in the LAPD’s gang and narcotics division, according to the suit, which says Sgt. Joe Danny Garcia was put in charge of their unit the same year. Soon thereafter, Garcia began to harass Zibli’s colleague, Karolin Clarke, by making inappropriate comments, massaging her shoulders and pressing his body up against hers, the suit alleges.
In January 2016, Zibli told another lieutenant that Garcia was harassing Clarke, the suit states. Instead of taking corrective action, the K-9 unit supervisors “undertook a pattern of retaliation” against Zibli and his fellow officers, the suit states.
Zibli alleges he was denied additional training, not given adequate weapons and backup officer support during searches and given assignments far from his home.
“The department’s retaliatory actions toward (Zibli) increasingly placed his safety, as well as the safety of the other bloodhound handlers, at risk,” the suit states.
Zibli says he was forced to resign in July 2017 and that he did so earlier than he planned because he was concerned about his health and safety.
Clarke also sued the city, but reached a settlement. Dog handlers Ricardo Sanchez and David Dooros also filed suit, but Sanchez dropped out of the case, leaving Zibli and Dooros as the remaining plaintiffs in a case that is now consolidated.