Justin Fleeman has been fired as chief deputy at the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, he confirmed on Thursday.
Fleeman, who ran against Sheriff Donny Youngblood for his seat in the June 2018 primary election, said he was fired on May 29 as retaliation for running a campaign against Youngblood during which he criticized the sheriff and the Sheriff’s Office.
The Sheriff’s Office declined to comment for this story, directing all questions to the County Counsel. Deputy County Counsel Bryan Alba provided a brief comment on the issue, saying Fleeman "no longer works for Kern County."
No information has been provided on whether the Sheriff's Office will be rehiring to fill Fleeman's position.
Fleeman said in the coming months, his lawyer — Kevin Schwin out of Fresno — will file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the county.
“I’m looking forward to this unfolding in court and the people seeing I was actually truthful during the campaign,” Fleeman said.
Fleeman, who worked for the department for the past 20 years, had filed a claim against the county earlier this year alleging defamation and invasion of privacy by the Sheriff’s Office. Fleeman said members of the department have retaliated against him because he ran for the sheriff position.
It is unclear at this point if this claim will be merged with the wrongful termination lawsuit or whether it will remain separate.
Leading up to last June’s election, Fleeman made several accusations against Youngblood, including that the Sheriff protected his friends from firing for ethical violations and misallocated department funding to buy a helicopter.
Youngblood denied the allegations and criticized Fleeman for running what he believed to be a dirty campaign aimed at ruining his reputation and that of the Sheriff’s Office in order to win.
In the election, Youngblood was re-elected with 66.24 percent of the vote while Fleeman garnered 33.76 percent, according to the Kern County Elections Office.
The president of the Kern County Sheriff Command Association couldn't be reached for comment on Thursday.