WOODLAND HILLS (CBSLA.com) — Some Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies have accused Sheriff Lee Baca of retaliating against them for backing his opponent in next year’s election.
CBS2’s Dave Lopez reported that several high-ranking officers believe they were reassigned, demoted or transferred because they publicly endorsed former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.
Paperwork showed 33-year department veteran Capt. Louis Duran’s transfer from the Detective Division to the Office of the Assistant Sheriff, Executive Division.
“Capt. Duran, he got transferred twice. And now, according to him, his job is a place where he has no desk, no staff, no assignments. It’s just a weigh station,” said Duran’s attorney, Bradley Gage.
Gage said Duran has filed a complaint against the department, and his client is not the only one making the allegations.
Gage said by next week, 11 deputies will file a complaint, including one commander.
“All of a sudden after many years of working in the same job…poof…they’re being transferred,” he said.
Asked if the situation looks like retaliation, sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said, “No. Unequivocally not. (Baca) had to make certain moves and he did it.”
Tanaka responded to the controversy on Thursday.
“It’s a violation of a person’s First Amendment rights,” he said.
Ironically, however, Gage claims Tanaka has been named in previous lawsuits alleging retaliation.
“A different kind of (retaliation),” he said.
“I believe that must be a miscommunication,” said Tanaka.
Tanaka explained, and Gage confirmed, that the ultimate decision to transfer any deputy is solely Baca’s.
Allegations of retaliation are nothing new to the sheriff’s department.
In 2002, former Lt. Patrick Gomez ran against Baca and claims he was punished for it.
Gomez sued the department and received an out-of-court settlement of $1 million.
He retired and is running against Baca again.