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Former officer’s lawsuit dismissed

Defendant’s lawyers in defamation suit gave information to the media to correct plaintiff’s claims, judge rules.

October 10, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

DOWNTOWN — An invasion of privacy and defamation lawsuit filed against the city by a former Burbank police detective was dismissed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Attorneys for Christopher Lee Dunn filed the lawsuit in July, claiming City Atty. Dennis Barlow illegally released his personnel records to the media on the same day the former detective filed a wrongful termination and racial discrimination lawsuit.

But on Thursday, Judge Irving Shimer granted the city’s motion to strike the complaint on the grounds that it constituted a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP.

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Barlow said the city would try to work with Dunn to recoup a portion of its $37,000 in legal fees. Without an agreement, a hearing would be scheduled to settle the matter, he said.

“I had no concerns at all because I know the laws,” Barlow said Friday. “We weren’t going to run off half-cocked.”

Dunn’s attorney, Solomon Gresen, said he was evaluating his options.

“At this point it’s disappointing, sure. We’ll see whether it makes sense to pursue it further,” he said.

In its special motion to strike the plaintiff’s complaint, the city maintained that before filing his wrongful termination lawsuit, lawyers for Dunn gave a news release to the Burbank Leader, Los Angeles Times and Daily News claiming he was terminated because of his race.

The prepared statement by Gresen asserted that the firm’s investigation “shows that the Burbank Police Department has a long history of tolerating, a matter of departmental practice, the use of unbelievably offensive racial and ethnic slurs.”

Barlow and city executives responded to Dunn’s allegations by releasing a letter from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office advising the city that Dunn had been placed on the “Brady list,” an inventory of officers whose names must be disclosed to defendants in criminal proceedings because they engaged in behavior constituting moral turpitude.

The letter and notice of termination were released because it reflected the actual reason for the termination, city attorneys argued. Dunn was fired in 2008 for tipping off an informant about a pending criminal investigation into her activities by the Culver City Police Department, according to the city and court records.

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