A judge ruled Thursday that a lawsuit brought against the city of Baldwin Park by a former police chief who was fired in 2017 — 49 days after he was hired — can proceed to trial on some of his allegations, including whistleblower retaliation and violation of his privacy rights.
David Salcedo alleges in his suit, filed in September 2017 in Los Angeles Superior Court, that he was asked by a council member to perform politically motivated activities he believed were improper.
Addressing the whistleblower retaliation claim in their court papers, defense attorneys maintained that the city had legitimate reasons for firing Salcedo. They said he had a close relationship with the mayor, but not with the entire City Council. They also said that officer morale was low during his tenure.
But Judge Monica Bachner, in a 26-page ruling, found that although some council members were frustrated with Salcedo because they felt like he would not communicate with them, the former chief presented evidence that it was they who refused to interact more with him.
While the defense maintained that Salcedo threatened a captain in the department, Salcedo testified in a deposition that the captain had targeted him, the judge wrote.
“Based on the foregoing, there is sufficient evidence of a triable issue of material fact whether (the city’s) actions were pretextual and whether (the city) acted with intentional retaliation,” Bachner wrote.
The judge did dismiss some of Salcedo’s claims, including those for intentional infliction of emotional distress and harassment, as well as his claims of discrimination based on race, age and disability. She also tossed another of his retaliation claims.
Trial of his suit is scheduled for May 11.
The all-Latino City Council voted 3-2 in closed session in April 2017 to fire Salcedo, who was named to the post in January of that year.
Salcedo says that he resisted requests from a council member to “fix” a ticket. He further alleges that the council member asked him to perform politically motivated actions, including towing a truck that was legally parked, to leave in place no-parking signs placed in violation of the city code, and sending a patrol car to investigate a vacant house on the politician’s street.
The council member — who is not a defendant in the suit — was left “angry” and “exasperated” by Salcedo’s refusal to perform the tasks, according to the plaintiff’s court papers.
Salcedo says he refused to perform actions for political reasons and reported his concerns to the mayor, city manager and city attorney. He also complained to the mayor about what he believed was excessive billing by the city attorney and offered the opinion that two to three permanent in-house lawyers could be hired for the same price, his suit alleges.
Salcedo suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome and has back problems, but when he asked the city for user-friendly items to alleviate the pain, he was told he had to pay for them, according to his lawsuit.
Salcedo also alleges that the city took medical documents from his office right after his termination.
Another former police chief, Lili Hadsell, sued the city for gender discrimination and was awarded $7 million by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury last March.
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