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Detective owes city $22,000

Burbank to recoup nearly half of legal fees from detective who alleged racial bias in Police Department.

January 15, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago

DOWNTOWN — A former Burbank police detective has been ordered to pay the city $22,500 to cover a portion of the legal fees it incurred in defending itself against his privacy and defamation lawsuit.

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

But Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Irving Shimer struck down the complaint on the grounds that it constituted a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP. The city then submitted paperwork showing legal costs of roughly $47,000, Barlow said, but on Friday was awarded the $22,500.

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“We’re disappointed in the ruling about the SLAPP motion, and we’re evaluating our options at this point,” said Solomon Gresen, Dunn’s attorney in both cases.

“I am gratified that the judge was far more reasonable in their request for fees.”

In seeking a dismissal, city attorneys had argued that before filing his wrongful termination lawsuit, Gresen sent a news release to the Burbank Leader, Los Angeles Times and Daily News claiming his client was terminated because of his race.

The prepared statement 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.”

City executives responded by releasing a copy of a letter from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office advising officials 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.

A recipient of the Los Angeles Police Department Medal of Valor and 1999 Top Cop Award before joining the ranks of the Burbank Police Department, Dunn has alleged in his discrimination lawsuit that he suffered years of ridicule based on his Japanese ancestry and received less-desirable assignments despite besting his peers in recorded drug seizures.

In all, eight current and former members of the department have filed a total of five lawsuits.

Gresen, who represents six of the plaintiffs, stressed that the judge’s decision would have no effect on two pending lawsuits against the city.


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