Public comments at the Monday night Tehachapi City Council meeting were strictly subject to the three-minute rule. City staff used an electronic countdown machine, with a clerk announcing when 30 seconds were left, actions that left many members of the public requesting more time on a variety of subjects.
Pete Graff, a previous Tehachapi Police Department officer who was fired from the department more than two years ago, addressed the council, requesting a hearing for councilmembers to consider his case.
Graff claims the city of Tehachapi denies ever receiving a document from him requesting a hearing within 10 days of his termination. Graff says he submitted the document the day he was terminated.
Graff asked the council to direct Mayor Susan Wiggins to ask that representatives from another city police department investigate his case.
“Ask them to provide a sworn peace officer to investigate this matter. No private detectives, no attorneys,” Graff said. He added, “If I have done something wrong, prove it.”
Only one city councilmember commented.
Councilman Kenneth R. Hetge said, “The night that I was sworn in was the first time I heard you come to the podium and ask for input regarding your situation and to date I have had absolutely no dialogue regarding your situation. Rightly or wrongly I don’t know."
He went on to say that he was told it was an employee matter and the council could not act on it.
More public comment was received on Graff’s case.
Resident Mike Puffer said he reviewed documents that Graff provided and feels that too much time has passed to resolve the case.
“I understand and feel for him and the effects it had on his life, but at this point this is not the forum anymore and he needs to move on," Puffer said. "I’m sorry, but he is wasting everyone’s time.”
Angela Lelievre, a Bear Valley Springs resident, said a private investigator questioned her regarding a case of a bicycle reported stolen that Graff responded to when he was an officer.
“When I was questioned by I guess private investigators ... their questions were centered in the direction of not getting a full story, but getting answers in the way that they wanted them. So it kind of felt like they were going after Pete Graff,” said Lelievre.
Tehachapi News has requested documents from Graff multiple times. This includes any letters to the city requesting a hearing.
One document received on Monday night from Graff, dated March 27, 2019, was regarding a second request for Graff's matter to be placed on a City Council agenda. The letter was from Che I. Johnson, an attorney from Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, hired by the city of Tehachapi.
The letter said, “For the record the city takes the position that you were correctly terminated for cause on November 28, 2016, following a series of independent IA investigations. After your termination for cause, the city offered on multiple occasions to provide you with an administrative appeal. However, following the city’s repeated efforts to schedule your hearing, your legal representatives failed to schedule any hearing date.”
Documentation from Graff for the request to appeal and answer as defined in the City Employee Personnel Manual dated June 6, 2016 was not received, said the letter. The last correspondence from Graff’s legal representatives was received Aug. 18, 2017 “in which your attorney stated he had serious concerns regarding the viability of your appeal,” said the letter.
“Given the amount of time that has passed since your termination, the city takes the position that under the doctrines of estoppel and laches you have waived your right to an administrative appeal. Accordingly, your request to be placed on the agenda so the city council can discuss the scheduling of your appeal is denied,” said the letter.
Other public comments
City resident Jack Dufur raised the issue of security at Tehachapi Unified School District and asked why he was arrested for being on school grounds when questioning how much children were being protected.
After his three minutes were up, he said, “We need more time. How can we get more time?"
George Sandi, a city resident, wanted to clarify the city’s refusal of the purchase of a hangar. This involved a closed session item, in which Sandi was named on the July 1 agenda.
As his three minutes for public comment was nearing a close, he asked, “I have another question. May I have another three minutes?”
Wiggins said, “You know what I would suggest? That you meet with the city manager and make this an agenda item on the next meeting and we can give more time for your discussion.”