Judge takes police union target from Santa Ana City Officials – Orange County Register

Think of them as cones at the end of the alley.

A pin was the city of Santa Ana. One was the police chief. One was the city manager, another the city prosecutor, another the personnel director.

The heavy bowling ball thundered towards them – complaints from the dissatisfied police union leader, as well as the union itself. His aim was to smash those pins and smash them hard in order to hold the city and its employees accountable for a staggering array of alleged wrongdoings . Except that now all the pins have been pulled from the formation except for one, and City declares some sort of victory, although their pin remains the lone target in the ball’s path.

That means Santa Ana City Manager Kristine Ridge, City Attorney Sonia Carvalho and Human Resources Director Jason Motsick can breathe a little easier today as the two lawsuits filed against them are dismissed with prejudice — meaning they’re done and not renewed can be submitted.

“These prejudiced terminations at such an early stage in the process show that the allegations made against my clients are completely unfounded,” said Jeffrey S. Ranen, attorney for the trio, in a statement.

“Those were two lawsuits that should never have been filed. My clients welcome the dismissal and are eager to get back to work on behalf of the residents of the City of Santa Ana without the distraction of these baseless lawsuits.”

There’s a minor catch, however: In exchange for the firings, the three agreed not to seek legal and court fees from the police union — costs that have exceeded $600,000 for all the accused in two cases, which is a lot of public money.

Police Chief David Valentin was also once a lapel pin but was yanked out of formation by the judge in August. Valentin refused to agree I’m-not-willing-to-seek-attorneys-fees-if-they-leave-me-out-of-the-suit Deal which the other three beat and emerged victorious. The Santa Ana Police Officers Association has paid more than $1,200 in court costs for Valentin, and Valentin’s attorneys are seeking more than $143,000 in legal and other costs. A hearing is scheduled for the new year.

If Valentin wins, it would take a nice chunk out of the city’s $600,000 legal bill — although the police union would be deeply unhappy if it got stuck making the payment.

Serious allegations

That conflict really started, if you ask the city, when Gerry Serrano, chairman of the Police Officers Association, was preparing for retirement and learned his pension would be about half what he expected — about $120,000 a year for the rest of his life instead of $240,000 or so.

That wasn’t the city’s decision. The huge California Public Employees Retirement System has jurisdiction here, and it ruled that Serrano would get most of the extra pay when he became a full-time union boss — to make up for the overtime he wouldn’t be earning because he was no longer a working man Policeman – would Not count towards your final pension calculation.

The city specifically warned him that CalPERS would have the final say on all of this when he took the job as union representative, but it apparently hit Serrano anyway. Serrano pushed the city for a high-paying job to make up the difference, and she said no, and well, here we are.

Santa Ana Police Union President Gerry Serrano in 2016. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Santa Ana Police Union President Gerry Serrano in 2016. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Neither Serrano nor his attorney have responded to our requests for comment on the latest developments, but his attorney has said that the nexus of the lawsuits to the pension dispute is nonsense and that they are absolutely unrelated.

“They are ignoring serious issues — raised by the Police Officers’ Association and other officers — related to what’s going on in the department that they really need to address,” attorney Corey W. Glave told us in May, per E -Mail.

The first lawsuit, which is still pending against the city but not individual employees, alleges a variety of sins, from sexual harassment to retaliation to violations of free speech and labor laws. Those in power played favorites in the police department, targeted critics in the union, ignored misconduct by those deemed loyal to the boss, and more, it said.

The second pending lawsuit against the city, but against individual employees, involves the release of confidential information about officials on paid leave that the union said should never have come to light.

So the judiciary machine keeps going. The city has filed “anti-SLAPP” motions — which stands for “Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation” — arguing that the legal action was aimed at intimidating, harassing and incriminating city officials. And a dispute over “hit-piece” website CrookedChief.com — primarily against Valentin — is also ongoing and could lead to a defamation lawsuit.

“Chief David Valentin has been fully vindicated by the judgment he obtained against Gerry Serrano and the POA for the frivolous and defamatory lawsuit they brought for political and financial gain,” said his attorney Seymour B. Everett III, partner at Everett Dorey LLP by email.

“To date, Gerry Serrano and the city’s POA have reimbursed 100% of the costs claimed by Chief Valentin. The city must recover an additional $143,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs the city incurred defending Chief Valentin in the frivolous lawsuit. … Chief Valentin dismissed requests from Gerry Serrano and the POA to waive fees incurred by the city and will hold them accountable for the defamatory and malicious remarks that have tarnished the reputations of the brave men and women who serve the city of Santa Ana.”

Not all Santa Ana police officers are happy with the union’s efforts here and how much they’re digging into the union’s pockets. More on that soon.

https://www.ocregister.com/2022/10/07/judge-takes-police-unions-target-off-santa-ana-city-officials-backs/ Judge takes police union target from Santa Ana City Officials – Orange County Register

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