A former West Covina police chief who says he was wrongfully fired in 2019 because he was 61 years old can take his age discrimination suit to trial, a judge has ruled.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy heard arguments on the city’s motion to dismiss plaintiff Marc Taylor’s suit last Wednesday, then took the case under submission before ruling on Monday.
Taylor’s attorney, Robert Brown, said Tuesday that he is pleased with Murphy’s decision.
“I believe that the court correctly and thoroughly analyzed the legal issues in the case,” Brown said. “I am very excited that Marc Taylor will have his day in court. Our team eagerly awaits the opportunity to present his evidence to a jury.”
In their court papers, lawyers for the city denied any age discrimination and maintained Taylor was terminated by City Manager David Carmany “in direct response to his observations of Marc Taylor’s poor job performance” and after a vote of no-confidence taken by the local police union.
In his ruling, Murphy said two City Council members out of the four who voted to affirm Taylor’s firing had made age-based comments to the former chief and that Taylor’s successor was about 10 years younger than the plaintiff.
“When interpreted liberally in (Taylor’s) favor, this evidence allows a reasonable jury to find that the council members harbored discriminatory animus and effectuated (Taylor’s) termination based on that animus,” the judge wrote.
Taylor’s lawyers maintained in their court papers that in October 2017, shortly after Taylor was installed as chief, one of the council members who eventually voted to fire him told Taylor in a meeting that he should die his white hair to make him look younger.
During the same time period, the late Councilman Mike Spence asked Taylor why he wanted to leave the retirement he began in 2009 and come back “at his age” to be police chief, Taylor’s attorneys further state in their court papers. Taylor began his career in September 1981 as a reserve officer and left the department at the rank of commander.
In March 2019, the City Council fired then City Manager Chris Freeland, Taylor’s immediate supervisor, who had given him a “glowing recommendation,” Taylor’s lawyers state in their court papers.
Later that month, Martin Pinon, the city’s human resources director, asked Taylor during a meeting how old he was, how long he planned to stay with the city, and whether he could retire, Taylor’s lawyers state.
“Pinon advised Chief Taylor to develop an exit strategy related to his position and (to) `lawyer up,”’ Taylor’s attorneys further state in their court papers.
Carmany fired Taylor on April 22, 2019, less than three weeks after Carmany’s hiring, Taylor’s lawyers state. Taylor appealed his termination to the City Council, which affirmed Carmany’s decision by a 4-1 vote the next month.
Trial of Taylor’s suit is scheduled Sept. 27.