Local News

Saturday, Jul 27 2013 07:59 AM

Officers allege retaliation in suit against City of Tehachapi

A lawsuit has been filed against the City of Tehachapi on behalf of two police officers alleging breach of contract and retaliation.

Tehachapi Police Officers Peter Graff and Rick Disney said they suffered after they reported a superior for allegedly falsifying time sheets and another officer for serving alcohol to underage Police Explorers.

The officers claim they have fulfilled their duties and obligations as stated in their contracts but have been denied a pay raise and continue to suffer losses in earnings and benefits. The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Kern County Superior Court also says the officers have been threatened and harassed by other Tehachapi police officers.

Police Chief Jeff Kermode could not immediately be reached Friday afternoon by The Bakersfield Californian.

On Saturday morning, responding to an inquiry by the Tehachapi News, Kermode said that as of Friday, July 26, he had not been advised of any service of a lawsuit.

"As such it would be premature for me to say anything at this point," he added.

Bakersfield attorney Stephen Wainer had filed a claim — a precursor to a lawsuit — on behalf of the officers earlier this year. He’s asking in the lawsuit for the city to pay economic and general damages and “other relief the court deems just and proper.”

The lawsuit asserts that Graff reported a sergeant recording more hours than those he worked, but the incident was not investigated. He also reported an incident where a senior officer threatened to shoot him, the lawsuit says.

“Instead of being commended for bringing to the City’s and Police Department’s attention these incidents, Officer Graff has been subjected to a hostile work environment and retaliation for being a whistleblower,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit goes on to say other officers follow Graff while he’s on patrol to harass and intimidate him. Also no one informed Graff that his safety was at risk after a witness in a drug case was shot and killed. Graff had testified in the case.

Disney reported a senior officer served alcohol to Police Explorers. The lawsuit says Kermode, instead of properly investigating the incident, appointed a sergeant who was also present at the function to investigate.

Senior officers on numerous occasions have tried to provoke a physical reaction from Disney, according to the lawsuit. They’ve yelled at him, prevented him from leaving a room and walked toward him as if they were going to fight him.

The lawsuit says Disney was the subject of an investigation after taking the rest of a shift off after responding to a call during which an infant died. The investigation occurred even though Disney filed a worker’s compensation claim that was accepted. He also has received treatment for the psychological trauma he experienced.

Kermode, in a January interview, said the Explorers incident happened three years ago and had been investigated informally and with an internal affairs investigation. He said advisers on an Explorer trips had a couple of beers in a hotel room.

An 18- or 19-year-old female adviser was seen with alcohol and the alcohol was taken from her by other advisers, Kermode said. A no-alcohol policy for advisers has since been implemented for all trips.

CLAUDIA ELLIOTT of the Tehachapi News contributed to this story.

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